Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment, Proposition 204 (2012)

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Proposition 204
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Referred by:Quality Education and Jobs Committee
Status:On the ballot
The Arizona Sales Tax Renewal Amendment, also known as Proposition 204 or the Quality Education and Jobs Act, is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Arizona as an initiated state statute. Litigation surrounding the measure could change the status of the measure's ballot-certification, however. The litigation stems from a controversy regarding the initiative's text.

The proposal would 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, according to reports.

The initiative is officially called the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative by supporters. The 2010 sales tax measure found on a 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.


  • Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Parent Network and chair of the Quality Education and Jobs Committee, argued that the tax helps education in the state. Pedersen claimed, “Education is an economic driver and we’re going to ensure that by passing this initiative, we’re going to have good jobs for Arizonans and that we’re creating a healthy business climate so we can attract new employers and keep the ones we have."[1]




  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who was the main proponent of the 2010 sales tax increase that this initiative seeks to renew, is against the proposal. Brewer stated that potential increase would not give much room for the Arizona Legislature to decide how to balance the budget and set spending priorities.[3]
  • On June 7, 2012, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s public policy committee voted to recommend that the full chamber board oppose the measure.[4]

Media endorsements


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Ann-Eve Pederson v. Secretary of State Ken Bennett

On June 28, 2012, Quality Education and Jobs Committee filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, claiming that their signatures were valid and that their proposal should be placed on the ballot. The initiative was previously disqualified by Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett because ballot language on circulating petitions was different from language that the secretary's office had on file. According to supporters of the initiative, differences between the circulated text and the official text was a "hyper-technicality". Supporters argued that the circulated text was "substantially" the same.[6]

Judge Robert Oberbillig scheduled July 18, 2012 as the date for the hearing.[7]

On that same day, Oberbillig ruled that Ken Bennett should not have refused to process the petitions. The judge ruled that the measure be placed on the November ballot. According to Oberbillig, proponents of the initiative gave Bennett the correct version of the petition and that there was no evidence that those who signed the petition were misled.[8]

According to reports, Secretary of State Ken Bennett filed an appeal of the ruling, insisting that proponents of the initiative did not comply with state law. Reports also say that Bennett hired an expert in elections law to spearhead the appeal. Bennett stated, "To leave the lower court ruling in place I think risks huge voter confusion, huge confusion with our offices and other filing offices as far as how we're supposed to process these initiatives."[9]

However, that appeal failed as the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the measure be placed on the ballot. According to the high court, the text on the petition was enough that supporters of the initiative complied with state election law.[10]

Path to the ballot

According to reports, petition drive organizers must have collected 172,809 valid signatures from registered voters by the July 5, 2012 petition drive deadline in order to make the ballot.

According to reports on June 6, 2012, 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 at the time that they would keep collecting them leading up to the deadline in order to ensure that they had room for error.[11]

Ballot language error

On June 19, 2012, it was reported that a mistake regarding the ballot language of the measure hindered initiative efforts, potentially keeping the measure off of the November ballot. Reports said that supporters pointed 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 after this finding, his office would not accept any petitions that have a different version of ballot language than what his office had 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.”[12]

Signature submission

On June 25, 2012, supporters of the initiative filed more than 290,000 signatures from registered voters with the Arizona Secretary of State's office. Supporters filed the signatures despite the controversy surrounding the ballot language. Reports say that Secretary Ken Bennett's office accepted the petitions for processing and would decide whether or not the signatures, and the ballot language on the petitions, are valid.[13]


On June 26, 2012, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett stated, after signatures were submitted to his office days before, that the proposal did not have sufficient signatures to make the ballot. Signatures were disqualified because of the difference in the ballot language on the circulation petitions and the ballot language that the secretary's office had on file.[14]

However, after litigation, the measure was placed back on the ballot.

See also

Additional reading