Thursday, March 22, 2018

House Democrats unanimously vote to extend Prop. 301 public education sales tax


Contact: Robbie Sherwood

PHOENIX, State Capitol – House Democrats unanimously supported a bill approved today to extend the voter-approved Proposition 301 six-tenths of a percent sales tax for public schools before it expires in 2021. Senate Bill 1390 closely mirrors legislation introduced by Democrats for the past three years. The bill cleared the House by a vote of 53 to 6 and was transmitted to the Governor.

But Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios and other members cautioned Gov. Ducey and Republicans not to pat themselves on the back.

"This is not a moment of pride; this simply maintains the status quo, which is last in the nation," said Rios, D-Phoenix (District 27). "This just helps us avoid a complete disaster. We need to be committed to really solving this problem, and we can do it in this session."

Money shifted from debt service to classrooms within the new plan would amount to about $18 a week for teachers in 2021. Extending Prop. 301 simply avoids a devastating loss of more than $550 million in public education funding if the tax expires. The re-allocated money is nowhere near enough to fund the seven-percent raise Arizona teachers would need just to rise to 49th in the nation in elementary teacher pay.

"By passing this bill, we are continuing an important funding source for education, a stable and sustainable funding source," said Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson (District 9). "This is a first step but it can't be the only step. We have much, much more work to do. We can do great things for Arizona when we work together."

Democrats credited the thousands of Arizona teachers, education professionals, students and residents who have protested and pressed Gov. Ducey and lawmakers to take action for public education. But SB 1390 adds no new funding to a school system that is still $1 billion short of replacing funding cuts enacted since 2008.

Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4), added, "Today's vote is not new money. Will it help? Yes. But there's so much more work to be done. It's not a red or a blue issue; we all have to come together to make sure we pay back to our public schools what we owe them."


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