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Bill requires dedicated funding for city ballot measures

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 to require a dedicated funding stream for voter-approved programs.

Now lawmakers want the same requirement at the municipal level.

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved SCR1031, which will ask voters in November to extend the dedicated-revenue requirement to political subdivisions of the state. It also would allow a political subdivision to reduce spending if the identified revenue source for a voter-approved program is insufficient.

The measure would keep voters from approving programs for which there is no money to support, and allow cities to keep control over their budgets.

Sen. Russell Pearce, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the writers of the state Constitution didn’t anticipate “budgeting from the ballot box.”

Senate Minority Leader Jorge Garcia, the bill’s sponsor, said he was concerned by an initiative last year in Tucson that would have required the city to keep police and firefighter staffing at a specific level. The initiative, which failed at the ballot, didn’t identify a funding source.

Marie Nemerguth, a Tucson official, testified in committee that the initiative would have cost $150 million out of the city’s general fund over the next five years.

The initiative would have forced the city to shift and redeploy funds to public safety from other programs, such as street paving or park and recreations, or the city would have had to ask voters to raise taxes, Nemerguth said.

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