Flat tax is flat wrong for AZ on so many levels

24th May 2021

The Earth is flat.

If you believe that, you’re more likely to believe the flat tax being bandied about the Arizona Legislature as being on the level.

In other words, you flat out believe that wealthier and super-wealthy people need more money, and that they don’t need to pay their fair share of taxes and that Arizona education should remain at the very bottom.

However, if you believe the Earth is more round and that Arizona actually isn’t the center of the universe, then the flat tax is flat wrong on so many levels. For instance, a 2.5% flat tax rate, the basis of a proposed $1.5 billion tax reduction now in budget discussion, would benefit the wealthy and wealthier the most.

In fact, 91% of the tax cuts would go to the wealthiest 20% of Arizona taxpayers, or those residents earning $108,000 or more in taxable income. (The median household income for Arizona is $58,945, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) Less than 10% of the cuts would go to the bottom 80% of Arizona taxpayers, according to a study by the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.

If all that makes sense and sounds fair, then yes, the sun does revolve around the Earth, and the Moon really is made of green cheese – green, as in cold, hard cash. But for those of us a bit more grounded in looking beyond the immediate horizon, we believe Arizona should invest in our future by not shortchanging opportunity. We know the flat tax is as unwise as it is unfair.

Arizona’s economy and state budgets have been propped up by a huge infusion and waves of multiple hundreds of millions of federal dollars in response to the pandemic. As a result, there is a temporary surplus in the state budget – with the key operative word being “temporary.” Once the “free money” stops flowing, Arizona is going to need traditional and perhaps new streams of revenues.

Welding shut the spigots permanently limits the options. A $1.4 billion tax reduction, as is being proposed, essentially would be permanent, since in Arizona it takes a nearly impossible two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to raise revenues but only a simple majority to pass such a tax cut.

“The largest tax cut in Arizona history,” as it is being touted by Governor Doug Ducey, would annually account for $1.4 billion less to fund public schools and universities; $1.4 billion less to pay for highways, transportation and infrastructure; $1.4 billion less for all other state expenditures.

Such a fundamental impact and change in state revenues and budgeting should not be made by a simple majority of a hyper-partisan Legislature. More debate, deliberation and discourse should follow more data and study. Then, at the end of the day, if a majority of legislators still espouse a flat tax, they should do so on the 2022 ballot and let voters decide.

You know, like Arizona voters in 2020 overwhelming approved Proposition 208 (the Invest in Education Act) to tax wealthier Arizonans more in order to better support public education. Presently, Arizona ranks 49th in spending and 48th in funding, according to EducationData.org.

With the federal government providing just 7.7% of funding for public education, state and local governments must fund the remaining 92.3% for education. The flat tax is a way to usurp Prop 208, since the Legislature constitutionally cannot directly change the voter mandate.

Perhaps Arizonans are not being asked to ultimately decide the flat-tax issue because most voters know the world is not flat and that money doesn’t grow on cactuses. State revenue has to come from somewhere, and perhaps those with the most can best afford to pay just a little more.

But the idea of again disproportionately and permanently rewarding the wealthy with more tax cuts – this time with “the largest tax cut in Arizona history” – falls more than a little flat.

Make your views known against the flat tax. Contact your Arizona legislator:

To find out your legislative district, click here.

To contact your legislator, click here.


Joseph Garcia

Executive Director

CPLC Action Fund


Full disclosure: Joseph Garcia serves in voluntary capacity on the executive board of Arizona Children’s Action Alliance, which includes the Arizona Center for Economic Progress. He has no role in its day-to-day operations.

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