State Capitol News
4:30 pm
Wed August 12, 2009

Voters unable to weigh in on sales tax during November election

Phoenix, AZ – Gov. Jan Brewer had been pushing for a Nov. 3 vote to ask Arizonans to put a one-cent surcharge on the 5.6 percent tax rate for 2010 and 2011 and a half cent in 2012. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said that time had simply run out. The next available date is Dec. 8.

That means an election between Thankgiving and Christmas when some people may not be focused on the idea of going to the polls. But gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman said that is preferable to pushing the election back to January -- or later.(The governor's preference is that it should be done sooner rather than later because the additional funds are critically important to our education, vital public health services and public safety needs.)

A Nov. 3 election would have provided time for the Department of Revenue to inform merchants to start collecting taxes at the higher rates starting Jan. 1. But that won't happen even if lawmakers do eventually round up the votes for a Dec. 8 election.(The collections would probably not begin until late January or February at that point. But we have to recalculate those estimates.)

Even a one-month delay in higher taxes -- assuming voters approve-- could mean $80 million less in revenues to balance this year's budget.

For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.