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Arizona Sales Tax for Education Initiative Disqualified

  • Jun 27, 2012 | Will Frei

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett disqualified a 1-cent sales tax initiative from the November ballot. Bennett states that the Quality Education and Jobs initiative does not fulfill the necessary legal requirements.

The initiative sought to renew a 1-cent sales tax, set to expire in 2013, and use the revenue to ". . . provide dedicated funding linked to performance and accountability for students of all ages . . . ."

Governor Jan Brewer vowed not to extend the 1-cent, in her January State of the State address. Since Bennett blocked the initiative from the ballot, she may not have to contend with it. Bennett disqualified the initiative on the grounds that the language ". . . on the initiative circulated to voters didn't match the version pre-filed with his office." The two versions contained different information as to how the revenue would be distributed.

According to Ann Eve Pederson, Chairwoman of the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, her group "...filed a disc containing the correct version of the ballot measure with the secretary of state. Its language mirrors what is on the petitions being circulated for voter signatures...."

However, "...the paper version pre-filed earlier, which by law is deemed the official version of the measure, lacks language that directs up to $350 million to universities and infrastructure projects in the event the sales tax collects more than $1.55 billion in a year." Thus the discrepancy lies between the hard-copy submitted to the Secretary's office and the copy circulated for signatures.

Kevin McCarthy, executive director of the Arizona Tax Research Association indicates that the "...omission makes a 'very substantive' difference."

In response to Bennett's decision, backers of the initiative promised to take the matter to court, stating that they have hired a former Arizona Supreme Court justice to represent the case.

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Avalara Author
Will Frei
Avalara Author Will Frei
Will Frei covers sales tax news including best practices, legislation and sales tax technology. He is the Social Media Manager at Avalara.