State Capitol News
12:15 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

Penny Sales Tax Initiative Formally Launched Today

An initiative drive launched today seeks to let voters decide if they want to make permanent the 1-cent sales tax set to expire next year. 

The proposal would earmark about 75 percent of the billion dollars a year for education, mostly for K-12 funding but also for college scholarships. Initiative organizer Ann-Eve Pedersen said this is not just throwing money at the problem, with some public school funding tied to performance.

"Test scores, third-grade reading proficiencies, graduation rates, drop-out rates, how we view on some of the national tests like the NAEP test," said Pedersen. "And there'll also be a piece of that that gauges student engagement and parental satisfaction."

The plan also has money for transportation projects and grants to help reduce hunger, homelessness, and family violence. Governor Jan Brewer promoted the original three-year tax hike in 2010 by emphasizing it was only temporary. But Pedersen said she is not deterred.

"Voters at that time we perfectly willing to make it permanent at that time," said Pedersen. "So that would have been successful if we had decided to do that, if the governor decided to do that. If you look at the polling numbers, voters, education and the economy are their top priorities."

Brewer has been noncommittal about an extension. Backers have until early July to gather more than 170,000 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.