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Legislature poised to refer sales tax to voters

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – The future of whether state residents will get a chance to hike
their sales taxes to balance the budget depends this morning on
whether House Democrats are willing to go along.

Both House and Senate Republican leaders agree that voters should
be able to decide on a one-cent hike in the state's 5.6 percent
sales tax. In fact, House Republicans voted earlier this year for
just such a referral. On Monday, though, House Speaker Kirk Adams
said that was a special situation.

"When it was voted on before, it was voted on as part of a
comprehensive budget package that included future tax reductions.
And it was successful because of that. If tax reductions are not
included in the special session, it is not clear at all that we
have the votes for it."

Gov. Jan Brewer wants a special session later this week to have
the tax hike referred to the ballot. But if Adams can't produce
the necessary 31 votes out of his 35-member GOP caucus, he will
need Democratic support. Democrats wouldn't vote for the plan
earlier this year specifically because it was linked to future
tax cuts. But House Minority Leader David Lujan said Monday night
they might support a simple referral.

"We've said all along that we think we need additional revenue.
So I think that would be something that we would look at. How
many votes they need and how many we could get, that's something
I'd have to talk to our caucus about."

For the moment, Lujan said the question is academic: He has yet
to be approached by either Adams or Brewer.