Students: Beware Prop 208’s effect on workers and young professionals

Arizona voters are set to flock to the polls — or mail in their ballots — at record pace this year. This surge in voter turnout comes amid a once-in-a-century pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 220,000 Americans and counting, and delivered tremendous economic turmoil.

It took years for the Great Depression to elevate domestic unemployment to near 20%. It took a month for the virus to bring unemployment from record lows hovering around 4% to just short of 20%.

Our economy is struggling, and not just in the abstract. Working- and middle-class folks are suffering as their wages are cut and the bills keep piling up. Students have been affected, too.

As a result of these socioeconomic conditions, students are cracking under the burden of mental, physical, and monetary pressures. According to USA Today, many students are simply choosing to drop out. This will have a sustained downward effect on future economic productivity and wage growth, something policymakers will have to contend with sooner rather than later.

At a time when Arizona’s economy needs an accelerant, some special interests are attempting to throw cold water on any chances of a recovery.

Here in the state of Arizona, teachers unions and out-of-state activist groups worked hard to get Proposition 208 on the ballot. Drafted in Portland, Oregon, Prop. 208 aims to dramatically increase income taxes and route the revenues to teachers and classrooms. Full of good intentions, 208 fails the test of good policy: results.

The initiative raises Arizona’s top income tax bracket by 77.7% — from 4.5% to 8% — to increase K-12 spending.Only 50% of revenues generated will even make it to classrooms and, even then, the exact allocation is specious since the definition of who’s eligible for funding is incredibly broad. Further, there is not a cent headed directly towards our state universities, save for 3% of revenues assigned to the Arizona Teachers Academy Fund. 

Worse yet, and critical to understanding the negative impacts of the proposition on Arizona students, the additional taxation applies to pass-through entities like LLCs, sole proprietorships, and more. This is primarily how small businesses, which employ 58% of Arizona private sector workers, are organized. Chances are, many of us will go to work for one of these job creators after we graduate.

It’s also not even clear if this tax would increase revenues at all. A recent report published by the renowned Goldwater Institute concluded that Prop. 208 would cause Arizona to lose a “minimum of $2.4 billion in state and local tax revenues”.

In other words, Arizona voters are being asked to kneecap small businesses amid a public health crisis and economic disaster in order to deliver minimal results for students, families, and workers.

As college students, we’re all on board for increasing funding for education and ensuring that students, families, and teachers are fully accounted for. But this isn’t how we do it.

We are entering one of the worst job markets in decades. If Prop. 208 passes then small business will be crushed, wage growth will decline, and career opportunities will shrink. Don’t force us, the next generation of educated Arizonans, to move out of state after graduation. Now is the time to gas up and go, not slam on the brakes.

Sincerely, Arizona students

Joe Pitts is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

Jack Piekarz is a freshman at Northern Arizona University.

Alton Zhang is a sophomore at the University of Arizona.

Abhinav Kolli is a freshman at Duke University, registered to vote in his home state of Arizona.

Justin Groth-Roberts is a junior at Northern Arizona University.

Stephen Matter is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

Alyssa Kihoi is a senior at Arizona State University.

Matthew Martinez is a sophomore at Grand Canyon University.

Clay Robinson is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

Mackenzie Kirby is a senior at Northern Arizona University.

Allen El is a sophomore at the University of Arizona.

Cameron Decker is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

Taylor Hersch is a junior at Arizona State University.

John Touhey is a junior at Northern Arizona University.

Saular Rahimian is a freshman at Arizona State University.

Arjun Rondla is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

Jessica Carpenter is a senior at Arizona State University.

William Noll is a freshman at Arizona State University.

Cooper Ashton is a freshman at Arizona State University.

Ryne Bolick is a freshman at Arizona State University.

Frank Pauls is a freshman at Arizona State University.

Diego Píña is a junior at Arizona State University.

Joe Pitts

Arjun Rondla

Arjun Rondla is an undergraduate studying political science at Arizona State University and an intern at Chamber Business News.

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