Backers of extending the state's temporary 1-cent sales tax submitted more than 290,000 signatures Monday to put the issue on the November ballot. But at this point all they've really done is guaranteed a court fight.
The initiative seeks to make permanent the levy voters approved in 2010, set to self-destruct at the end of this coming May. With it goes the approximately $1 billion a year it raises. This measure would make the tax permanent. The lion's share would go to public education, with cash earmarked for other programs, including health care for children, university scholarships, and road and other projects designed to stimulate the construction industry. The problem is that the paper copy of the initiative submitted to the Secretary of State's Office in March as required by law does not match what is on the petitions that were circulated. Initiative organizer Ann-Eve Pedersen said that's irrelevant because an accurate copy was submitted on computer disk.
"We have complied with the law," said Pedersen. "And if there are going to be people who will allege that we haven't, then they can file a challenge. We will settle this in court. But we have substantially complied with all of the requirements that are set forth in our state statutes, our case law, our constitution, and the legislative intent and history."
That lawsuit is coming. Pedersen said if the petitions are rejected by the secretary of state, her organization will sue. But Kevin McCarthy of the Arizona Tax Research Association, which opposes the levy, said his group will sue if the petitions are accepted.