Wrangler: Legislators vote to cut taxes amid protests to fund education

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tempe & West Chandler's Wrangler News reported that if lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey were inclined to find money for teachers, one place they could go looking is in the taxes that the state doesn’t collect: Arizona allowed more than $13.5 billion in taxes to go uncollected in fiscal year 2017, thanks to a litany of exemptions, deductions, allowances, exclusions or credits. And that number is likely to grow by another $1-to-2 billion once individual income tax deductions are tallied.

Arizona Department of Revenue data shows that more than half of all possible state taxes haven’t been collected for at least the past eleven years. Called “tax expenditures,” they amount to $137.7 billion since fiscal year 2008.

Several thousand Arizona teachers are demanding state legislators and Gov. Doug Ducey provide funding to increase pay for educators by 20 percent. And even if Arizona teachers’ pay were increased so dramatically, it would still lag the national average. When adjusted for costs of living, the median pay is $42,474 for Arizona elementary teachers and $46,070 for high school teachers, according to a 2017 Morrison Institute for Public Policy report. A 20-percent pay raise would bump those medians to $50,969 and $55,284, respectively.

There are roughly 60,000 public school teachers in Arizona, and the estimates for increasing their salaries by 20 percent range from $680 million to $750 million. Ducey has touted increased funding for the K-12 system in recent years and pledged to do more, but has stopped short of committing to fund increased teacher pay at any level.

The general fund budget for fiscal year 2018-19 that is currently being designed by lawmakers and Ducey is expected to be roughly $10.1 billion, of which approximately $4.5 billion will go to K-12 education.

READ: As teachers rally for higher pay, Arizona’s tax code exempts $13.5B from collection

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