There may still be a vote on temporarily raising the state’s sales tax rate, but it won’t be on Nov. 3.
According to Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake, the next feasible date on which a special election could be held is Dec. 8. Municipal and school board elections will be held Nov. 3, and the voting machines will not be available for at least two weeks afterward because they will be sequestered for the election canvass, Drake said.
Election officials had cited Aug. 10 as the “drop-dead date” by which the Legislature could decide to hold the vote in November, and on the morning of Aug. 11 Drake said the vote could still be held on the scheduled date if a budget was passed by the end of the day. But lawmakers adjourned without passing a budget – which would include ballot referral for the tax hike question and other budget measures – making a Nov. 3 special election an impossibility.
“We shaved all we could, we reevaluated, we doubled down, and there’s just no way we felt comfortable that we could put on a state election past today,” Drake said.
Legislative leadership and Gov. Jan Brewer are still trying to round up the votes needed in the Senate to pass a budget deal that would allow voters to decide whether to temporarily raise the sales tax rate by one cent, suspend the Voter Protection Act for three years and impose a $10.2 billion spending cap on the budget.
Prior to Bennett’s announcement, Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor preferred that the special election be held “sooner rather than later.” Once it was announced that the deadline had passed, Senseman said the governor would continue pressing to get the budget measures on the ballot.
“Obviously the governor would prefer that Nov. 3 date, but she will continue to work with legislators to get this referendum done and get this on the ballot,” he said.
Senseman said the governor has faith voters will make the right choice when the special election is held, despite predictions that holding the special election after Nov. 3 could diminish voter turnout and weaken support for Brewer’s proposed budget measures.