After seven years of failing to get the question on the ballot, a group that is seeking to impose California-style limits on property tax increases is trying again. Lynn Weaver of Prop 13 Arizona said this time, the initiative drive will be sufficiently funded, and it will pay for workers to gather the 259,213 valid signatures that are needed to qualify for the 2014 ballot. The initiative organizers also shed their old name, Prop 13 Arizona, in favor of a new one – EZ Property Tax. Additionally, some of the state’s conservative stalwarts have agreed to play a bigger role in the initiative drive. Russell Pearce, Randy Pullen and Thayer Verschoor are part of the group’s executive committee. Weaver said they won’t start gathering signatures until they have collected the money they need for the tall order, but she said they’ll likely start the signature drive in February. The group must submit its petitions by July 3. Prominent Scottsdale businessman John Dawson, who has generously contributed to conservative causes and to the Republican Party, is hosting the initiative’s launch today in Scottsdale. Last year, Dawson forked out $25,000 to help defeat a ballot measure that sought to permanently keep a one-penny increase in the sales tax rate. He also gave $25,000 to an independent expenditure group, Arizonans for an Honest Government, which spent thousands last year to boost Lori Klein’s failed primary bid for the House.
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What has not changed is the group’s ultimate aim – preventing wild swings in property tax bills, especially when valuations skyrocket, and keeping property taxes low. Weaver said EZ Property Tax will seek to cap residential property taxes to half a percent of their value and limit all other types of property taxes to one percent of their value. The initiative will use the 2012 or 2013 property valuations – which ever is lower – as its base. Additionally, the proposed initiative would limit property valuation increases to two percent annually. A draft of the proposal obtained by the Arizona Tax Research Assn, a critic of Prop 13 Arizona/EZ Property Tax, shows that the initiative also will repeal entire sections of the state Constitution that allows for exemption from property taxes, including exemptions for cemeteries, government properties and properties owned by disabled persons. The proposal’s other major provision – which is one sentence long – puts all personal property beyond the reach of taxation, including business personal property. “That will certainly stimulate economic growth here, and we hope that it will bring in manufacturers, who will create good, blue collar jobs,” Weaver told our reporter.