Petitions to extend 1-cent AZ sales tax rejected

CBS 5 Arizona
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Jason Barry

The push for a permanent 1-cent sales tax in Arizona has hit a roadblock.

The secretary of state's office threw out more than 290,000 petition signatures Tuesday that would put the issue on this November's ballot.

The initiative is intended to extend the 1-cent sales tax and specifically earmark funds to public education programs hit hard by recent budget cuts.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett said that the signatures were rejected because a couple paragraphs from the original version didn't match the petition people signed.

"It was rather clear to us that it did not meet the state constitution and state statute which says signature sheets have to be attached to a full and correct copy," Bennett said.

Ann Eve Pedersen is chairwoman of the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative.

She said the paper copy submitted to the secretary of state's office in March was an earlier version of the measure, but it no way alters the spirit of the proposal and the intent of Arizona voters who signed the petition.

"I think it would be very discouraging to a voter for someone to tell them their signature doesn't count and there's a hyper-technicality we will use to invalidate your signature," said Pedersen.

However, Kevin McCarthy, with the Arizona Tax Research Association, said the wording mix-up is a bigger deal than you think.

According to McCarthy, the missing paragraphs change how hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent.

"The permanence is associated with not only the tax, but appropriations and tying legislators' hands forever," said McCarthy. "Recent memories demonstrated that's really a bad idea."

Attorneys for the Quality and Education and Jobs Initiative are planning to file a lawsuit tomorrow.

Pedersen said they are confident that a judge will determine that the signatures are valid and the issue should be allowed on this November's ballot.