Backers of tax hike want ballot wording changed - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Backers of tax hike want ballot wording changed

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Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008 7:37 pm | Updated: 8:43 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Backers of a plan to hike state sales taxes for the next 30 years filed suit Friday because they don't like the description to be given to voters about the ballot measure, at least in part because it spells out the size of the proposed increase.

Tax backers, campaign group dispute promises

The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, specifically objects to the Legislative Council describing the proposed levy "a 17.8 percent tax increase." That, according to attorneys for the group pushing the initiative, is "misleading."

But during the hearing of the council earlier this week, Stan Barnes, who lobbies for road-tax supporters, conceded the number is, in fact, "deadly accurate." What he wanted, however, was to describe the increase only as one penny on every dollar spent.

Central to the debate is how Arizona voters perceive the issue which, in turn, could determine the outcome of the vote on Nov. 4.

The actual language of every ballot measure is sent to the home of each registered voter. But given the complexity of many of the proposals - this one alone is 15 pages - state law requires the Legislative Council, made up of lawmakers from both parties, to craft "an impartial analysis" of each one.

In this case, the majority of council members voted to say that approval of this initiative - dubbed "Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy" - would increase the state sales tax from 5.6 cents on every dollar to 6.6 cents, a 17.8 percent increase beginning in 2010.

Approval of the measure also would hike the mining severance tax from 2.5 cents on the dollar to 3.5 cents, a 40 percent hike.

Attorney Paul Eckstein, hired by initiative organizers, said those numbers showing the percentage increase, while accurate, are misleading and "calculated to cause voters to vote against the TIME Act."

"This expression of a percentage increase in the tax percentage would be confusing to voters," Eckstein wrote in the lawsuit.

But that isn't the only problem road-tax supporters have.

Barnes complained that having the first sentence of the ballot analysis talk only about the tax is not objective.

But Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, said there's a good reason the tax is mentioned first: It is the only measure on the ballot that would increase taxes.

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