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Affirmative action, property tax initiatives proposed for 2008 ballot

Property taxes and affirmative action programs may face voter scrutiny in 2008, as an initiative addressing each issue was registered with the Secretary of State Nov. 5. Both initiatives propose changes to the state’s Constitution.

A proposed initiative to forbid governments and political subdivisions in Arizona from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex and national origin was filed Nov. 5 with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

The proposed constitutional amendment, known as the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, would cover public employment, public education and the awarding of contracts to private businesses from government entities.

The effort against the use of race and gender-based preferences is being spearheaded by Ward Connerly, a California resident and former Board of Regents member who successfully fought similar programs in California, Michigan and Washington.

Connerly has teamed up with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who is acting chairman of the ballot initiative committee, and David McPhail, the group’s treasurer.

McPhail said the drive is needed to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of race.

“The citizens of Arizona should know that their government will not discriminate against them based on their race and gender,” said McPhail.

Volunteers will begin collecting signatures by the end of the week, said McPhail, adding paid circulators would also be used in the future.

Opponents of the initiative filed proposal have stated race is not the sole factor considered under affirmative action policies in the state.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Napolitano, who in 2004 signed an executive order requiring state agencies seek to least one quote from companies owned by women or minorities for contracts valued below $50,000, declined to comment on the proposal.

Capping property taxes

With many homeowners facing significantly higher property tax bills in recent years because of rapidly climbing home values, voters may have the opportunity to cap the amount property taxes can jump in a single year.

In a statement, the organizers of Prop 13 Arizona said the constitutional amendment will revamp the method used to calculate property taxes. The initiative will repeal two sections of the state Constitution and replace them with new language.

“Prop 13 Arizona will remove speculation from formulating valuations, cap the total amount of tax that can be levied and limit increases in valuation,” the group said. “Arizona property owners have been taxed on unrealized ‘gains’ and speculative valuations that have resulted in year-to-year tax increases as high as 75 percent.”

The initiative will place a 0.5-percent cap on residential property taxes and one-percent cap on taxes for all other property classifications.

Additionally, it will establish a baseline value for all properties at their 2003 level and limit annual valuation increases to two percent. Also, properties added to the tax rolls after 2003 will be valued at their purchase prices.

In order to qualify to the ballot, both initiatives need 230,047 valid signatures by July 3 next year.

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