Ballot Victory in Arizona Shows Anti-Tax Sentiment Not Nearly as Strong as Many Believe


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Arizona’s 1 percentage point sales tax rate hike won approval from voters on Tuesday, telling us a lot about rightwing claims regarding the alleged “anti-tax,” “anti-government” nature of the American people.  In a state described by the Los Angeles Times as “famously tax-averse,” the overwhelming support received by this tax hike truly does “[run] counter to a common national narrative about 2010 being a sharply anti-tax year,” as Pew’s Stateline publication explained earlier this week.

The hike will take effect on June 1, and will raise Arizona’s state-level sales tax rate from 5.6% to 6.6% for the next three years.  The higher rate is expected to generate about $1 billion per year in revenue, and will prevent the need for so-called “contingency spending cuts” of a similar magnitude in K-12 education, universities, public safety, health care, and services for the disabled.  

But while the sales tax hike is far preferable to the devastating cuts that would have been required in its absence, it is also far from the ideal progressive solution.  Arizona policymakers should not overlook the fact that the state’s newly increased sales tax rate will exacerbate the unfairness of a state tax system that was recently ranked by ITEP as the 7th most regressive in the entire nation.  In a state where the poorest residents already pay over two and a half times as much of their income in state and local taxes as the richest 1%, the need for additional tax relief for the state’s poor has just become even more dire.  Future changes to the Arizona tax code should be guided first and foremost with this thought in mind.

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