Arizona voters to flock to polls for first statewide special election in 30 years

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May 17, 2010

PHOENIX, Arizona: During the May 18, 2010 special election tomorrow, the proposed sales tax increase question, which has garnered much debate, local attention and media coverage in the state, is expected to turn out a large number of voters, according to county election officials across Arizona. The measure was predicted to attract about 45% percent of Arizona voters. A statewide special election hasn't been held in the state since 1980 when 30% of voters made their way to the polls to decide on whether or not to cap property tax increases. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST.[1]

The sales tax hike, if enacted, is projected to generate approximately $1 billion a year. It would hike the state's sales tax from 5.6 cents to 6.6 cents on every dollar of taxable items purchased. The sales tax increase, if approved by voters, would be a three-year temporary increase. On February 2, 2010, the Arizona State Senate approved the measure for ballot access with a 16-12 vote. The measure was placed in front of the state House of Representatives on February 4, 2010, where it was approved by a vote of 35-25. As a result, it was sent to the ballot. Early voting for the measure began during the week of April 18, 2010.[2][3][4][5][6]

As of April 29, 2010, early voting in the state showed that many people have become interested in the issue in Arizona counties. According to reports, Pima County has reported about 33,000 ballots returned out of the 164,000 that the county had mailed out.[7]

Opponents of the measure include The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, The National Federation of Indepedent Business, and the Americans for Prosperity organization. Supporters of the measure include The Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Tax Research Association and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.[8][9][10]

This isn't the first time the issue of a tax increase, temporary or permanent, has hit Arizona. In 1983, the Arizona Legislature increased the state sales tax to 5 cents from the previous 4 cents in order to balance the budget, similar to Proposition 100. The temporary tax was scheduled to expire in the summer of 1984, but the governor at the time, Bruce Babbitt, introduced a proposed budget that would leave a permanence to the sales tax, which was subsequently approved. The tax was changed 16 years later by former governor Jane Hull, who increased the tax to 0.6 cents on the dollar. The .6 cent increase was placed on the ballot for voter approval, and was introduced to pay for education in the state.[11]

Local elections have seen this issue before, when in 1997, the city of Phoenix saw a transit tax proposed, but was defeated by 122 votes. The proposal would have been implemented as a permanent tax. A similar measure was then introduced again three years later, but stated there would be a twenty year expiration on the tax. The tax was passed.[11]

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