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Prop. 100 passes by 2-to-1 margin

From the Arizona Republic:

by Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic

Arizona voters Tuesday gave a resounding thumbs-up to a temporary sales-tax increase, handing Gov. Jan Brewer a victory in her yearlong crusade to raise money for a strapped state budget.

Proposition 100 was passing by more than a 3-2 ratio late Tuesday, according to preliminary returns.

The measure increases the state sales tax by 1 cent per dollar, to 6.6 cents. It will take effect in two weeks.

“This is the beginning of Arizona’s comeback,” Brewer said as victory appeared certain.

The tax will bring sales-tax levies for purchases made in Phoenix to 9.3 cents on the dollar.

The statewide sales tax is not a silver bullet for the state’s budget woes. Cuts that have led to the elimination of all-day kindergarten, reductions in health care for low-income Arizonans, a freeze on the KidsCare program and the closure of several state parks and highway rest stops will not be reversed.

The estimated $1 billion a year from the tax will go to education, public safety and health and human services. But tax proponents warn that further cuts are likely as the state climbs out of a recession.

Education appeared to be the winning ingredient. The Yes on 100 campaign relied heavily on appeals to the needs of schools and noted repeatedly that two-thirds of the revenue would go to education.

The remaining third of the tax revenue is split between public safety and health and human services. The tax expires on May 1, 2013.

The passage is a win for Brewer, a Republican, who bucked many in her party to push for the tax increase.

“Doing the right thing almost always means doing the hard thing, and today, (voters) did the hard thing,” Brewer told a subdued crowd of about 200 gathered at Madison No. 1 Middle School in Phoenix.

She choked up as she repeated her admonition that the vote was not about her political future but about what’s right for Arizona.

Still, the success of Prop. 100 will likely give Brewer a boost in August’s crowded GOP primary. All of her opponents opposed the tax.

Brewer reached out to those who voted “no.”

“I respect you, and I’ve heard you,” she said.

Opponents said the temporary tax increase was an easy out for state government, and they argued the state must live within its means, just as many residents have done during the recession.

“I think folks will be disappointed that the tax is not going to solve the problems they were told it was going to solve,” said Republican state Sen. Thayer Verschoor, chairman of the Ax the Tax Committee.

Brewer said tax collections have plunged since the recession, and she and lawmakers have responded by cutting $2 billion from the budget over two years. The apparent passage marks the second time in 10 years that voters have agreed to increase the sale tax in the name of education.

The “yes” vote puts Arizona in league with numerous other states that raised taxes to cope with declining state budgets.

Results won’t be official until the May 28 canvass.

The campaign was a lopsided affair, with the Yes on 100 effort raising more than $2 million, compared with $1,200 from opponents. The “yes” campaign put a heavy emphasis on early voting, The measure was passing in 14 of the 15 counties, preliminary results showed, trailing only in Mohave County.

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