The Arizona Supreme Court released its official opinion on Prop. 207

The Arizona Supreme Court today released its official written opinion in Molera v. Reagan, the challenge to Proposition 207, the tax-hike measure it ordered removed from the ballot back in August.  Five justices voted in the majority, two in the minority.

Proposition 207, also referred to as the Invest in Education Act, sought to nearly double the individual income tax on certain families and small businesses.

The initiative was challenged in court by Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy, a committee established by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and chaired by former state Superintendent for Public Instruction Jaime Molera, which argued that the proposed proposition failed to accurately describe to voters what the measure would do in its 100-word petition description. The accompanying caption described the scope of the tax increase to petition signers in the more modest percentage points rather than the actual percentages, which would have amounted to a 98 percent income tax increase on some earners. The petition also failed to mention the initiative’s repeal of a law on tax bracket inflation indexing, which, had the measure passed, would have resulted in a tax increase on all taxpayers.

OH Predictive Insights conducted a survey asking voters if the language of the ballot proposition would sway them in a certain way. “The public opinion poll uncovered a stark difference among Arizona voters when posed with a 3.46% increase compared to a 76% increase,” OH Chief Pollster and Managing Partner Mike Noble said. “The data clearly showed that it made a significant difference in the mind of voters depending on which percentage increase they were asked.”

The justices siding with the majority, wrote that “The omission of the change in tax indexing paired with the confusing language about the magnitude of tax increases makes it clear that petition signers were not adequately informed about what they were signing, as the requisite description failed to provide adequate notice of the measure’s principal provisions as required by § 19-102(A).”

“This was the right decision. The majority opinion is thoughtful and well-reasoned,” Arizona Chamber President and CEO Glenn Hamer said. “The justices made clear that the proponents did a sloppy job in crafting their petition language and their initiative, which had it passed, would have resulted in a $1.25 billion tax hike over a decade. The Court really had no other choice but to remove it from the ballot. Had Proposition 207 appeared on the November ballot, it truly would have undermined the entire citizen initiative process.”

In response to the summary Supreme Court ruling released in August, Invest in Ed supporters launched a campaign against two Supreme Court justices who are up for retention on the November ballot,  Justice Clint Bolick and Justice John Pelander, without knowing how the individual justices came down on the ruling, a move considered by many as unprecedented in a state that has never voted not to retain a Supreme Court justice.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club recently launched a retention campaign in support of Justices Bolick and Pelander, noting both have been “fair-minded judges” reaching decisions that have “displeased both sides of the political aisle.”

“It is unfortunate that a small group of partisan extremists are trying to politicize the judicial process and remove two principled, independent supreme court justices from the bench,” Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi said. “Both Justice Bolick and Pelander have proven to be outstanding judges who should be evaluated on their entire body of work, not just one ruling. If they are upset about the Invest in Ed ruling, their anger should be directed at the drafters of this poorly written initiative and stop blaming others for their mistakes.”

Morgan Carr

Lorna Romero

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