Arizona Supreme Court Kicks Invest in Ed Initiative Off November Ballot

Rebecca Garelli, one of the #RedForEd leaders, poses with boxes of signatures for the "Invest in Education Act."
Rebecca Garelli, one of the #RedForEd leaders, poses with boxes of signatures for the "Invest in Education Act." Joseph Flaherty
The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against an initiative that would raise income taxes to fund schools, knocking it off the November ballot because of the measure's imprecise wording.

A 100-word description of the Invest in Ed initiative omitted any mention of a potential change to inflation-adjusted tax brackets, the court said in a brief ruling. That combined with the initiative's description of the tax increase, which opponents said was inaccurate, was enough to remove it from the ballot, a majority of the court ruled.

Collectively, these problems create "a significant danger of confusion or unfairness," the court said, citing a 2013 decision.

The Invest in Ed ballot measure described a marginal tax increase on two brackets of high-income Arizonans. Individuals earning more than $250,000 and households earning more than $500,000 would see their taxes go up to 8 percent; individuals making more than $500,000 and households making more than $1 million would get taxed at a rate of 9 percent.

Invest in Ed proponents described the tax hikes as a rate increase of 3.46 and 4.46 percent, respectively. Opponents said that the ballot measure's description was wrong because the tax isn't being increased by those percentages — rather, those numbers are added to the existing 4.54 percent rate that people in those tax brackets pay. That means the tax rate would be increased by 76 and 98 percent.

A full-length opinion has yet to be released.

Plaintiffs with a committee backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce to fight the Invest in Ed measure sued to remove the initiative from the November ballot after organizers with the #RedForEd movement submitted more than 270,000 signatures to the Secretary of State in July.

The decision on Wednesday reverses a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling where a judge found in favor of the Invest in Ed measure.
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Joseph Flaherty is a staff writer at New Times. Originally from Wisconsin, he is a graduate of Middlebury College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Contact: Joseph Flaherty