Backers of Sales Tax Bill File Suit Over Ballot Description

Jul 26, 2012

Backers of an extension of the state's sales tax surcharge filed a new lawsuit Wednesday, this one over how their measure is being described to voters.

Voters approved a temporary one-cent surcharge in the state's 5.6 percent sales tax in 2010 to help balance the budget. That levy is set to expire next May. The initiative would make that 6.6 percent rate permanent, with funds earmarked for everything from education to road construction. The lawsuit stems from the fact that members of a legislative committee, charged with crafting an impartial description of each ballot measure, called it a tax hike. Initiative organizer Ann-Eve Pedersen said that does not tell voters that if they approve the levy, the 6.6 percent tax rate will remain unchanged.

"What we had asked is they just reflect in here that this, in essence, it will pick up at the expiration of that tax," she said. "Because somebody could read the current language and think it is on top of that."

But Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs said that 2010 ballot measure left the base tax rate intact a 5.6 percent. Instead, it was promoted as a one-cent surcharge which goes away if voters do nothing at all.

"And what these people are arguing for is, hey, no, no, no. It's merely a continuation," he said. "And that is not precise."

He said this is a totally new tax.

"And because it is in perpetuity, it is an effective base-rate increase of 18 percent," Biggs said. "That is the fact and that is the truth."