- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - A group of business leaders is pushing for a measure to go onto the 2020 ballot that would increase the sales tax that supports Arizona public K-12 schools and universities.

The group announced the effort on Tuesday that aims to replace and expand a current voter-approved sales tax set to expire in mid-2021, The Arizona Republic reported .

The current 0.6 cent sales tax for education, Proposition 301, pumps about $600 million into schools each year. The group’s proposal seeks to increase the tax to 1.5 cents, estimating it would add about $900 million to the education system each year.

Most of the new funding would be directed for increasing teacher pay, making kindergarten a full-day program and improving school infrastructure, according to a draft of the group’s legislative referendum.

“Anything less than 1.5 cents is unacceptable if we are truly committed to Arizona’s economic future,” said Phil Francis, a former PetSmart CEO and one of the group’s leaders.

The group is pushing lawmakers to move the matter to the ballot. The group intends to raise $2 million to gather signatures in order to get the measure on the ballot if legislators don’t act.

The proposal is aligned with many of the education priorities set by Gov. Doug Ducey, according to the group. But Ducey has not indicated if he would support the expansion.

While the group has expressed urgency on the matter, Francis said there are other issues preventing the expansion from reaching the ballot sooner.

“While we would love to support a campaign for new funding in 2018, many education advocates are focused on other priorities this election cycle and therefore must wait until 2020 to champion our proposal,” Francis said.

Many education advocates are focused on a referendum that opposes the expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts school-voucher program.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com


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