Tea party conservatives thought they had earned a much-needed victory when former State Sen. Kelli Ward (R-AZ) won the position of state party chair earlier this year, but just months into her reign atop the Arizona GOP, she is already supporting a massive new tax hike proposal.
Ward is pushing two measures currently active in the AZ legislature – Senate Concurrent Resolution 1001 and House Concurrent Resolution 2024 – would put a permanent one cent sales tax increase on the ballot for 2020 to fund public education. This would be roughly a seven percent higher sales tax than what is currently in place.
“This ballot referral gives us the opportunity for voters, for everyone, to tell us where they stand on funding education in our great state,” Ward said.
“Do they feel that we have enough?’” she said. “Or do they feel that we need more? We’re going to hear from the voters.”
Ward’s flip-flop has stunned party leaders who believe she is betraying the core principles of the Republican Party.
“I don’t support that,” Sen. Vince Leach (R-Tucson) said about Ward’s tax-hiking scheme.
“We fund education,” Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), making the point that it can be well-funded without tax hikes. “We’ve done a lot in that area. We plan on doing more.”
“The governor has been clear,” said Gov. Doug Ducey’s press secretary Patrick Ptak. “He does not support raising taxes.”
“We should remember that at the state level, Republicans are only one seat away from losing control of the House. The situation is not much better in the Senate, where Republicans are two seats away from losing control. They cannot afford a snafu like this,” the AZGOP Executive Director Matthew Kenney wrote to an activist about Ward’s betrayal.
Ward’s tax hiking has earned the criticism of the Americans for Tax Reform, one of the leading fiscal conservative groups in the U.S.
“Kelli Ward promised the people of Arizona in writing that she would oppose any and all tax increases. She just called for a sales tax hike that would damage every citizen of Arizona,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform.
The organization noted that Ward signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge while primarying the late John McCain for his U.S. Senate seat.
“Why is she now taking the opposite position as Chairwoman and supporting a massive tax increase that would inflict a great deal of harm on the individual taxpayers, families, and employers across the Grand Canyon State?” the ATR asked.
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