by Jim Nintzel
Organizers of an petition drive to ask voters to extend the state’s one-cent sales tax are set to turn in more than a quarter-million signatures today—but whether voters will get a chance to approve the proposition on the November ballot remains to be seen.
There’s a wrinkle with the Quality Education and Jobs campaign effort: Official paperwork filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office at the launch of the initiative’s campaign left off seven lines of text from the 774-line document, or a total of 152 words out of the 8,967-word law.
“We have a paperwork SNAFU,” says Ann-Eve Pedersen, chair of the Quality Education and Jobs campaign.
That’s led Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett to warn the campaign’s backers that he might reject the petitions. Even if Bennett concludes the petitions are OK, there’s likely to be a court challenge filed by opponents of the proposed sales tax.
Pedersen says she anticipates that the Arizona Supreme Court will have the final say on whether voters will get a chance to decide whether to approve the tax.
The Quality Education and Jobs campaign has retained Stanley Feldman, a former chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, for the upcoming legal fight.
Pedersen says the group turned in the proper language on a disc and had the full proposition on the petitions that were passed, so she believes the effort has met the “substantial compliance” threshold required by Arizona law.
If voters pass the initiative, 80 percent of the fund would be dedicated to education (including K-12 and higher education) and the remainder would be dedicated to restoring funding for KidsCare, a health-insurance program for low-income and middle-class Arizonans, and transportation programs, including road repair and construction.
Pedersen says it’s vital to fund schools not only for the sake of the kids who are in them, but also to help seal the deal with businesses that want to relocate to Arizona.
“Right now, our schools are below bare bones in terms of what they have to operate,” says Pedersen. “At the same time that we’ve been underfunding our schools, we’ve been adding additional reforms, so there are a slew of new reforms coming online in the next two years that are pretty dramatic. So we’re raising the bar for educators and students, and we have to give them resources to they can get up and over that bar.”
You can find out more about the Quality Education and Jobs campaign here.