PHOENIX — A legislative committee’s official analysis of a sales tax
initiative on Arizona’s ballot went out of bounds by trying to inject the
illegal immigration issue to sway voters against the measure, the state Supreme
Court said Thursday.
The Supreme Court said the joint analysis of the House-Senate committee was
supposed to be impartial, but several parts were misleading or impermissibly
advocated against the proposal.
Voters on Nov. 6 rejected the initiative, which would have implemented a
permanent one-cent sales tax increase to pay for education and other social
The opinion by a three-justice panel explained why the high court previously
upheld an order by a trial judge who required the committee to change three
parts of the analysis before it was printed in the official state pamphlet
mailed to voters.
Part of the analysis stating the initiative “fails” to define who would be a
resident qualifying for university scholarships funded by the sales tax was an
attempt “to inject the contentious topic of illegal immigration issue into an
already controversial tax measure” and impermissibly sway voters, the opinion
“On its face, the statement is true, but its inclusion and provocative
phrasing belie neutrality,” Justice John Pelander wrote for the panel.
The ballot measure didn’t define many other terms of the initiative, and there
was discussion during the committee meeting that it needed to be pointed out
that “illegal aliens” might qualify for the scholarships, the opinion said.
The opinion also said it was misleading in another part of the analysis to say
the initiative would have barred legislative changes to the rest of the state’s
sales tax. And it was impermissible advocacy against the initiative to not
mention the tax increase would take effect only after a temporary one-cent tax
increase expires later this year, the decision said.
House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, was chairman of the legislative committee
in 2012 when it approved analyses for 2012 ballot measures. Rey Torres, a
spokesman for Tobin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment
In a separate but related opinion issued Thursday, the three-justice panel
explained why the Supreme Court earlier upheld a trial judge’s ruling rejecting
a challenge to Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s ballot wording that described
the sales tax initiative.
Bennett’s wording did not include the residency statement, and the court said
his handling of the other issues was adequate under a more lenient standard that
applied to the ballot wording.