The Real Story on the Sales Tax Initiative

I read with interest an editorial appearing in the Arizona Daily Star on July 10 titled “Bennett wrong to reject petitions for 1-cent tax,” and feel that I must respond since it seems the facts are being so twisted from what really happened.

To begin, I share the passion to support education in our state. I believe we have a responsibility to educate our children in a safe, positive and accountable environment.

We also have to follow state law, which clearly outlines the steps Arizona’s citizens must take to place an initiative on the ballot. The main claim in the editorial is that our office erred in determining the official version of the initiative.

The paper version is the official version, and the organization that sponsored this initiative knows it. They are trying to cover their unfortunate error by now saying an electronic “courtesy copy” on a computer disk was the official filing.

When they gave us the disk, one of our most experienced staff members told them that we do not accept the filing on disk and that the paper version is the official version. She stamped each of the 14 pages and the application form with our receipt stamp and then gave them a copy of the stamped pages as their receipt.

Most important, she wrote the serial number (I-16-2012) assigned to the initiative on the front page of the application. That number, she explained, has to appear on each signature petition sheet, which the campaign correctly did.

The important point here is that the serial number was only given to them on the paper version. We never opened the computer disk and put it in our file only at their request as a “courtesy copy.” Their legal briefings now claiming the opposite are disingenuous at best.

Although not heavily referenced in this editorial, the sponsoring organization has also argued that the difference between the versions is “hypertechnical.” The extra two paragraphs added to the official version change the way the money is distributed by at least hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in the first 15 to 20 years of the tax. Less money goes to K-12 education and more goes to fund university scholarships and infrastructure projects. We couldn’t see that as “hypertechnical.”

The Arizona Constitution says the petition sheets have to be attached to a “full and correct copy” of the title and text of the initiative. Over the next few weeks, a Superior Court judge will decide whether the advocates for this permanent sales-tax increase have met the requirements in state law. In the meantime, our office continues its work to process the petition sheets. If the judge rules that the initiative can be placed on the ballot, our office will complete our work and place the measure on the ballot. If not, the responsibility for its collapse falls squarely on those who failed to comply with the simplest of requirements.

Judge for yourself.

Here is a link to the original application:  http://www.azsos.gov/election/2012/general/ballotmeasuretext/I-17-2012.pdf

Here is the missing section:

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