Arizona voters say they support the idea of extending the Proposition 301 sales tax, which is set to expire in 2021.

But when it comes to increasing the sales tax from its existing 0.6 percent, that’s where things get a little shaky, according to a poll recently released by Expect More Arizona.

While 68 percent of those polled said they would support increasing the sales tax to 1 cent, only 56 percent said they would support an increase to 1.6 percent.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has proposed increasing the sales tax to 1 cent, while a group of businessmen are suggesting a 1.5 cent sales tax is what’s needed to fully fund Arizona’s education system.

Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, said teacher pay is a foundational issue to ensure there are quality teachers in the classroom to educate students.

“Our poll shows people are very concerned about teacher pay and school funding,” she said. “I think a ballot initiative is not going to be necessarily the total answer, but we need to be paying more attention to school funding and anything we can do to support schools. I’ll be interested to see the governor’s budget. I know he said he’s looking for every discretionary dollar to go to education. The governor has education as a priority.”

Expect More Arizona’s poll was conducted by HighGround Inc. in December in a survey of 600 Arizonans statewide.

For the third consecutive year, 42 percent of those voters said education is the top issue facing the state — which was twice as many as any other issue when voters responded to the open-ended question.

Border issues and illegal immigration (16 percent), government spending/taxes (5 percent), the economy (5 percent) and jobs and wages (5 percent) rounded out the top five issues mentioned.

Stand for Children Arizona conducted its own poll, which also found that education is a top priority.

Those polled also gave state lawmakers a D or F grade with regard to helping public schools.

Rebecca Gau, executive director of Stand for Children Arizona, said voters understand that schools cannot continue to be underfunded.

“Our lawmakers can raise their grades with voters if they truly make educational funding a priority this legislative session,” she said.

This article was originally published by the Phoenix Business Journal on January 12, 2018, by Angela Gonzales.