Written words may spell the doom of Arizona sales tax initiative

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June 20, 2012

By Al Ortiz


PHOENIX, Arizona: Ballot language for a sales tax initiative in the state seems to have hit a road bump created by controversy surrounding the measure's ballot language.

Previously, the proposal to renew a 2010 voter-approved one-cent sales tax to provide funding for education for students in the state who meet certain requirements, scholarships for college students and reinvestment in vocational education and new jobs seemed well on its way to being placed on the November 6 ballot.

According to reports on June 6, supporters of the initiative stated that they had collected enough signatures to make the ballot. Reports stated that petition drive organizers had collected more than 175,000 signatures from state voters.

Although enough signatures were allegedly collected, supporters said they would keep collecting them leading up to the July 5 petition drive deadline in order to ensure that they had room for error.[1]

However, on June 19, it was reported that a mistake regarding the ballot language of the measure could hinder initiative efforts and keep the measure off of the November ballot. Reports say that supporters are pointing to a "clerical error" in which ballot language on circulating petitions was found to be different than official ballot language on record with the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

According to Secretary of State Ken Bennett, his office will not accept any petitions that have a different version of ballot language than what his office has on file. Bennett said, "We would reject anything that was collected, attached to something other than what they filed with us. Potentially it’s a huge issue, depending on whether they’ve been collecting the signatures for the version they have on their website or the version that was filed with our office. But we can only accept signatures collected, attached to the version that they’ve filed with us.”[2]

The initiative to renew the sales tax hike is officially called the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative by supporters. The original 2010 sales tax measure found on the May 18, 2010 special election ballot implemented an increase to the state sales tax by one percentage point, ending in 2013.

The constitutional amendment, which won with 64.3% of the vote, was supported by Gov. Jan Brewer, who wanted the Arizona State Legislature to vote to refer the proposal to the ballot as a means to alleviate the state's budget strain.

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