State Capitol News
4:44 pm
Tue August 11, 2009

State races against time for ballot measure

Phoenix, AZ – The Monday deadline that Secretary of State Ken Bennett set for approving the plan came and went without final Senate action. But Bennett told Arizona Public Radio he can give lawmakers a bit more time if they agree to some temporary changes in election law. One deals with the deadline for supporters and foes of this ballot measure to file statements to be included in the publicity pamphlets that have to be mailed out ahead of the election to 1.7 million households with registered voters. The original deadline is now passed. Bennett said lawmakers could alter that. But even that is getting tight.

(At some point here, we are denying or potentially denying the
citizens their right to express their opinion if they want it to
be published to a million seven households in the publicity
pamphlet. We just can't cut that window too short.)

Time is not on the side of Gov. Jan Brewer who has been steadfast
in her demand that voters be given a chance to impose a one-cent
surcharge on the state's 5.6 percent sales tax for 2010 and 2011,
decreasing to a half cent in 2012 before disappearing. The
governor said the state needs the $2.5 billion that could be
generated during that time to weather the recession. But to get
that referral, the governor had to agree to permanent repeal of
the currently suspended state property tax, foregoing the $250
million a year that would bring in. And the package also includes
$200 million in corporate income tax cuts and another $200
million in reductions in individual income tax rates. But that
package can't get the necessary 16 Republican votes in the
Senate. Two of the 18 Republicans -- Ron Gould and Pamela Gorman
-- won't vote to send the tax hike to the ballot. And Carolyn
Allen can't support the tax cuts. On Monday lawmakers divided the
issue into two separate bills in hopes of corraling the votes for
each. But Allen, who injured her leg several weeks ago, said she
has no intent of coming to the Capitol today, particularly to
expedite passage of a package which guarantees future tax cuts
even if voters reject the temporary sales tax hike. In the
meantime, Brewer is pursing another option. She hopes to pick off
some of the 12 Senate Democrats who have so far been unified in
their opposition to the plan. One of them is Albert Hale of
Window Rock who represents much of Northern Arizona. Hale
sidestepped the question of what Brewer was offering.

(What I want to do is get beyond the stalemate that we have.
Because I think we owe it to the public and our constituents that
we give them some sort of budget that has some certainty in it.
And I think we have to do that pretty quick.)

How much more time Brewer and Republican leaders have to make a
deal and get the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot is murky at best.
Bennett said lawmakers could buy themselves a few more days by
delaying sending out early ballots to those who want to vote by
mail. But Bennett said cutting that too short could
disenfranchise military and overseas voters who would not get
their ballots in time to fill them out and mail them back by
election day. Senate President Bob Burns said if the deadline for
a Nov. 3 election passes, then the vote could be moved back a
week. But Maricopa County Elections Director said that can't
happen. She pointed out that, with or without a sales tax vote,
there will be an election on Nov. 3, with council seats up for
grabs in some cities and schools having bond and override
elections.

(There is no way to start back up and do a whole 'nother
election. We wouldn't even be done with our final tabulation by
the next week.)

Osborne said the next available date for a statewide vote would
be Dec. 8. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.