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State Supreme Court Rules Sale Tax Can Stay on Ballot

The Supreme Court ruled today that voters will get a chance to decide in November whether they want the sales tax rate to stay as high as it is now.

The initiative would create a permanent 6.6 percent sales tax rate. Most of the cash would go to K-12 education, with other funding for universities and road construction. But Secretary of State Ken Bennett refused to process the signatures because a version of the initiative prefiled with his office did not match what was circulated. The high court, however, said backers of Proposition 204 substantially complied with the law despite that error. Initiative organizer Ann-Eve Pedersen said she believes Bennett, the state's chief election officer, had a political motive.

"I think it's important that people in his position remain neutral and not allow outside forces to influence what really should be unbiased decision making on their part," Pedersen said.

But Bennett said that was not the case.

"This was never about trying to keep something on or off the ballot," he said. "Our focus was to make sure that state law was complied with. We felt that they had not. There was a question of whether they had substantially complied."

The ruling still leaves one legal question unresolved: Whether the measure can be described in a pamphlet mailed to voters as a tax increase. The high court will decide whether that description by a Republican-controlled legislative committee is unfair because it fails to point out that the new one-cent addition will not kick in until after a temporary levy expires next year.

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