New strategy for Prop 208 proponents: When the definition doesn’t fit the narrative, change it!

A recurring theme of the campaign in favor of Proposition 208 is to change the definitions of key terms of the debate in order to fit the proponents’ narrative. The problem? Arizonans won’t fall for it.  

This week you may have seen evidence of the evolving strategy from the Prop. 208 proponents, which is to tell small business owners that they’re really not small businesses. This isn’t new. Last week proponents tried to weave the narrative that no small business owners would be subject to the initiative’s 77.7% tax increase, but that didn’t sit well with small business and tax policy experts alike.  

Why are the proponents trying so hard to change the definition of small business? My guess – passing the largest tax increase in Arizona history during a global pandemic is likely to be rejected by voters, and we already know it does not sit well with our small business owners.  

It’s why the state’s leading small business associations and dozens of other business organizations representing everyone from farmers to Realtors oppose Proposition 208. And telling these small business owners they are not in fact small business is just insulting, especially considering all that these job creators do for our state’s economy. 

Arizona small businesses employ 1.1 million Arizonans across all industries, amounting to 44% of our private workforce. In 2019 alone small businesses created over 44,000 net new jobs. They are the backbone of our economy and it is imperative that they succeed. Raising taxes on small businesses and subjecting them to tax rates higher than large corporations is no way to help.   

But this isn’t the first time the proponents have changed the definitions to fit their narrative, and small businesses aren’t their only target; they have their sights set on educators, as well. K-12 advocates have long asked for sustainable revenue sources to provide base funding for the classroom and for our teachers. Prop. 208 does not deliver.  

The proponents will tell you that 50% will go into base teacher pay. The problem? They have once again altered and diluted the definition of teacher to include swaths of non-administrative support personnel, meaning less money for our traditional classroom teachers.  

The other omission? They are nearly doubling the tax rate on the most volatile segment of tax revenues, leaving no guarantees for funding from year to year. That’s no guarantee for our teachers, for the classroom, and most importantly for our students.  

Changing definitions to fit their narrative is a neat trick, but this bait and switch definition strategy won’t fool Arizona voters and definitely not small businesses. They are well aware that regardless of what the proponents say, Proposition 208 wallops small business and would cause incredible damage at the most vulnerable time.  

Courtney Coolidge is vice president of government affairs for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Guest Contributor

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