By Linda Kor
An appeal by Secretary of State Ken Bennett sends the debate over whether the state’s one-cent sales tax increase should be on the November ballot to the Arizona Supreme Court.
The debate began last month after Bennett’s office received an official photocopy of the initiative from supporters that omitted two paragraphs outlining how some of the one-cent tax will be spent. Since that copy differed from the one that circulated as part of the petition that collected 290,000 signatures, those petitions were disqualified, leaving the initiative without enough signatures to make the ballot.
Organizers of the Quality Jobs and Education campaign contested Bennett’s decision by taking it before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig, who ruled earlier this month that the tax would remain on the November ballot despite the decision by Bennett’s office to have it removed.
In his ruling, Oberbillig stated that Bennett had also received a correct version of the initiative on a com-pact disk, and that contacting the initiative supporters and making a simple correction would have avoided any court action.
Bennett has based his appeal on the claim that leaving the lower court ruling in place would risk voter confusion since his office made its decision based on the law and the proper process for handling initiatives.
The measure asks Arizona voters to make permanent a one percent increase to the state’s sales tax.
Voters approved a temporary one percent increase to the sales tax in 2010 that runs out next year. A large portion of the tax is earmarked for education, with remainder to be dispersed to other areas such as healthcare for children and road construction.
By Linda Kor