This letter began on Tax Day. At that time the Verde Independent had an article about I-17. It had a picture of traffic stopped on Black Canyon hill and asked, “How did we get here?”
Recently teachers across the state walked out due to low salaries and poor working conditions. How did our schools get in to this sorry state of affairs? The answer to both of these questions is taxes.
Arizona’s gasoline tax, which pays for our roads, is 19 cents per gallon. This has been the rate since 1991 when our state’s population was 3.8 million. Today 7 million call Arizona home. Due to increases in automobile gas mileage, doubling our number of drivers hasn’t resulted in doubling our revenue for roads. We aren’t able to keep up with the need for greater highway capacity. So today we have bumper-to-bumper traffic on roads that should allow for safe and speedy travel.
Public schools are the backbone of a democracy. A poorly educated electorate isn’t capable of making good decisions. Arizona’s schools have been neglected since the Great Recession.
Teachers’ salaries, already low in comparison with other states, stagnated.
We also borrowed from the future to balance the budget. School buildings were left to crumble while textbooks became battered and outdated. Some of this borrowing may have been necessary for a few years, but funds weren’t reinstated as the economy improved. Instead we cut taxes.
Former U.S. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “I don’t mind paying taxes. They’re the price we pay for civilization”.
Governments require adequate revenues to provide needed public services. If we want good roads, schools that produce a top notch workforce, and safe streets we have to pay taxes.