Arizona taxpayers are tired. It’s bad enough that our state has been getting crushed by the highest inflation rate in the country, but during this past November’s election, the government tried to swoop in and take more of your hard-earned dollars out of your wallet. This time, Arizona voters said enough is enough. Not only did they reject several tax increases, but they ensured victory for one key protection against future tax increases.
Arizonans Reject Prop 310
Prop 310 aimed to increase the statewide sales tax by 0.1% to fund fire districts throughout Arizona, and its proponents used the oldest trick in the book. Just like we’ve seen with past education or transportation tax increases, they tried to convince voters that Prop 310 would only cost them a penny when they buy coffee or a dime when they buy dinner.
Voters are split on a proposed new sales tax on the ballot benefitting fire districts, according to the latest polling.
A Data Orbital poll surveying 550 voters indicated that just over 12 percent of voters are undecided on Proposition 310. Nearly 44 percent are in favor of the proposition, while just over 42 percent are against it.
Of those in favor of Prop 310, nearly 30 percent were completely for it while just over 14 percent were somewhat for it. Of those against Prop 310, nearly 33 percent were strongly opposed to it while nearly 10 percent were somewhat opposed to it.
Pollsters read voters Prop 310’s official ballot summary, then asked how they would vote if the election were held on that day.
41 percent of respondents were registered Republicans, 32 percent were Democrats, and 24 percent were independents or unaffiliated. The greatest majority of them had some college education but no degree, 46 percent, while 24 percent had a bachelor’s degree, 16 percent had a graduate or postgraduate degree, and 11 percent had a high school degree.
Respondents’ demographics revealed that most voters answering were aged 65 or older: 36 percent. The remaining age categories were evenly split, all under 20 percent. 75 percent of respondents were white, 17 percent were Hispanic, four percent were African American, and 2 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC), an opponent of Prop 310, commissioned the poll.
Proponents of Prop 310 argue that it would help underfunded, rural fire districts, and claim that increased funding would cut response times. Opponents argue that Prop 310’s fund awarding would favor districts with larger property valuations, even with the three percent cap on distributions, and insist that funding solutions should be tailored to the districts rather than imposed on all taxpayers.
Prop 310 would generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the next 20 years without requiring fire departments to disclose how those funds were spent. The Common Sense Institute Arizona (CSI), a nonpartisan research nonprofit, projected that Prop 310 would have a negative effect on the state’s economy.
CSI claimed that the cumulative $5.5 billion in additional fire tax revenue would come at a cost of fewer jobs, lower personal income, and higher local prices.
CSI projected that Prop 310 would reduce statewide employment by 2,500 jobs in 2023 and then 3,800 jobs by 2042; reduce state GDP by $7.4 billion; reduce resident personal income by a cumulative $8.55 billion ($690 million in 2042); and increase the local price level by .04 percent.
As part of their data modeling, CSI included background on fire districts’ historical funding and expenditures: from $114 million in 2003 to nearly $500 million annually in 2020, accrued from revenues such as property taxes. CSI shared that a significant portion of those funds went toward unfunded public pension liabilities. CSI noted that no available source regularly tracks fire district funding.
Proponents of the Prop 310 tax increase tell voters it would cost just a penny when they buy coffee or just 10 cents when buying dinner to help fund “under-resourced” fire districts. But make no mistake, Prop 310 is a big tax hike. A new study by The Commonsense Institute, finds Prop 310 will cost taxpayers $5.5 billion over the next 20 years. On top of the bill footed by taxpayers, the Institute estimates it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs, shrinking our economy by $7.4 billion and reducing personal income by $8.55 billion over the lifetime of the tax.
The last thing the people of Arizona need right now is a sales tax increase. But leave it to state lawmakers to try to push one through by proposing a referral to put a tax hike on the ballot to fund fire districts.
The bill is SCR1049. And if it makes it onto the ballot—and gets approved by voters—it would create a 20-year statewide 0.1% sales tax to fund Arizona’s 144 fire districts. It would also distribute the funds proportionally to the fire district’s equalized property valuation, but not to exceed 3% to any one fire district.
To the average voter, this may not sound like a big deal. After all, firefighters provide an important service that keep people and their property safe.