Real estate tax ban group wants signatures OK'd - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Real estate tax ban group wants signatures OK'd

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2008 5:31 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Backers of an initiative to ban real estate transfer taxes have gone to court to get more of their signatures recognized as valid.

The group, organized as Protect Our Homes, contends that Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell improperly disqualified more than 1,000 signatures of the 14,259 in the random sample sent to her. Extrapolated out, that would leave the petition drive short of 105 percent of the 230,047 signatures needed for automatic qualification for the November election. That means every one of the more than 360,000 signatures submitted needs to be checked.

And that presents the risk that the initiative, being financed by the Arizona Association of Realtors, will not make the ballot.

What's at stake is a proposal asking voters to make it illegal "to impose any tax, fee, stamp requirement or other assessment, direct or indirect" on the sale, transfer or purchase of real property.

Tom Farley, lobbyist for the Realtors' group, acknowledged there is no such levy now. He said, though, the idea has been explored in the past - and could come up again in the future - as elected officials look for new ways to balance the budget.

But it also would take one option off the table if lawmakers decide to revamp the state's tax system.

The lawsuit stems from how signatures for initiatives are verified.

Under that law, the secretary of state, who gets all petitions, first reviews the papers for obvious problems, such as a petition missing the notarized signature of the circulator. What's left is divided on county lines, with recorders in each sent 5 percent of the total collected within their jurisdictions. These are checked against rolls to see whether someone is registered and to ensure the signatures match.

Purcell concluded that more than 35 percent of the sample was invalid.

That becomes significant in this case.

The law says the measure is put on the ballot if, after the random sampling, the total still equals at least 105 percent of the number necessary. Conversely, anything below 95 percent is presumed to have failed. In between, that forces a name-by-name review.

Attorney Charles Blanchard said his own review concluded that 1,074 of the 5,112 signatures Purcell found invalid belong to those legally entitled to sign the petitions.

No date has been set for a hearing on the lawsuit.

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