Foes of Prop. 204 vow well-funded assault

Arizona Capitol Times
Friday, September 7, 2012

The coalition organizing against a new sales tax initiative is far cry from the anemic opposition to Proposition 100 two years ago.

Some of the key figures from the yes-on-100 effort are now in the opposition camp for Proposition 204. Even Gov. Jan Brewer, who lined up many of Arizona’s biggest interest groups behind her temporary sales tax hike and brought in millions of dollars to pass it in a May 2010 special election, stands against the proposal to make the 1-cent tax increase permanent.

And the opposition committee — No New Taxes, No on Prop. 204 — is unlikely to see a repeat of the no-on-100 campaign’s paltry fundraising, which brought in barely $1,000. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer Doug Ducey, legislative leadership and other major players have pledged to have a well-funded campaign.

Ducey, the chair of the committee, wouldn’t say how much the campaign hopes to raise. But Ducey said money won’t be a problem.

“The business community and strong leaders are going to step forward to fund this campaign,” Ducey said. “We are at a six-figure level out of the gate, and we intend to get to a seven-figure level. And we intend to defeat Proposition 204 and raise what is necessary so that we can properly reform K-12 education and simplify our tax code without hurting our economy.”

If Ducey and his allies hope to defeat Prop. 204, a strong fundraising effort will be critical. The Quality Education and Jobs committee, which put the initiative on the ballot, has already raised and spent more than $800,000, and is expected to be well funded through November.

Lobbyist Marty Shultz, who was an active member of the Yes on 100 committee and is now opposed to the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, said the No New Taxes committee will likely have raised as much as the Prop. 100 campaign, which brought in nearly $2.4 million, to be successful and get its message out. But he believes it can be done.

“If Doug Ducey and his campaign … will be able to produce enough money to get the word out as to what the flaws in this initiative are and have a real discussion about the details as opposed to a feel-good discussion, I think this can be defeated,” said Shultz, a former lobbyist for Arizona Public Service who is now with the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer said his organization hasn’t decided yet whether it will contribute money to the anti-Prop. 204 effort — the chamber contributed $145,000 to Prop. 100 — but it will raise money for the campaign.

“I’m confident that we’ll have more than $4,000 raised against it,” Hamer said, referring to the dismal campaign in 2010 against Prop 100. “One way or another we’ll be engaged in efforts to fund the defeat of Prop 204.”

A Sept. 5 stakeholder meeting of Prop. 204 opponents at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry attracted about 50 people, according to attendees. Some, such as Arizona Public Service, don’t plan to take a position on the initiative and were there only to get information.

But many prominent Prop. 204 foes attended the meeting, including Senate President Steve Pierce, House Speaker Andy Tobin, Brewer tax policy adviser Michael Hunter, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, Arizona Tax Research Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Arizona and Greater Phoenix chambers of commerce.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Steve Voeller noted that many Prop. 100 backers, such as the chambers of commerce, ATRA, Shultz and Brewer herself, are all opposed to Prop. 204. There was also no organized opposition to Prop. 100, said Voeller, who was part of the opposition campaign in 2010.

“This landscape resembles nothing from the Prop. 100 landscape,” Voeller said. “What Prop. 100 had going for them organizationally in

2010 was a broad coalition. What Prop. 204 doesn’t have is a broad coalition. And you can’t say, well, these people are just against education. These are the people who were for Prop. 100.”

One big difference is the nature of the initiative, Voeller said.

Brewer pushed Prop. 100 as a temporary, emergency measure to deal with a massive budget crisis, and the money went directly to the state’s general fund. The new initiative is permanent and directs the $1 billion or so the tax hike is expected to raise annually into funds that could only be used for specific areas in K-12 education, higher education and infrastructure. Because the funding would be voter protected, it would handcuff the Legislature and governor’s ability to budget, Prop. 204 opponents say.

Voeller said Prop. 100 foes opposed the initiative simply because it was a tax hike. But Prop. 204’s critics oppose it because they believe it’s bad policy, he said, and voters will notice the difference.

“It’s not just the Free Enterprise Club or the Goldwater Institute.

These are people who were for Prop. 100,” he said.

Along with prominent supporters, No New Taxes will have an organized campaign. GOP consultant Sean Noble is working on the campaign, and the fundraising team includes lobbyist Wendy Briggs and fundraising guru Corrine Lovas.