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Arizona Ballot Propositions - 2012

How Arizona Voted

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In Arizona's 2012 General Election there were several ballot propositions that were hotly debated. The voters made their decisions. Here were the issues, and how the voters decided.

 

1. Proposition 114 / Crime Victim Protection From Liability For Damages

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 114 would protect crime victims from liability for damages by a person who was injured while committing a felony against the victim.

Advocates of Proposition 114 said:

  • Today a constitutional "right to sue" exists, which permits criminals to sue people that they victimize. That means that a property owner who defends his family, or his property from violent criminals (home invasion, burglary, arson, etc.) can be sued by that criminal if he is hurt. A constitutional amendment is needed to stop this.
  • We have the opportunity to protect the rights of crime victims by voting for Proposition 114, the Crime Victims Protection Act, which would limit the ability of criminals to sue their victims. Help ensure that victims of crime aren't victimized twice.

Opponents of Proposition 114 said:

  • No arguments have been filed against Proposition 114.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 114?
90% of those responding voted: Yes, crime victims should be protected against people who commit crimes against them and then sue for damages for injuries.

9% of those responding voted: No, crime victims should still be liable for damages if they injure someone who is committing a crime against them.
UPDATE November 2012: The voters said yes; this proposition passed.

 

2. Proposition 115 / The Judicial Department

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed, Proposition 115 would amend the Arizona Constitution to change the way state judges and justices are selected and retained. Superior Court judge terms would change from four years to eight years; Court of Appeals judge and state Supreme Court justice terms would would change from six years to eight years. Judges and justices would be required to retire at age 75 (currently 70). Today, judicial vacancies are filled by a commission of five attorneys nominated by the State Bar of Arizona. This proposition would have four of the commission attorneys appointed by the Governor, and one by the President of the State Bar. The minimum number of judicial nominees submitted for a vacancy would be increased from three to eight, and the limitations on the number of nominees from a particular political party would be repealed. The Supreme Court would be required to make opinions and orders of state judges and justices available electronically on the Supreme Court website. Sixty days before the general election, the legislature would meet with and take testimony from the judges and justices who are up for retention. A copy of the judicial performance review of each state judge or justice would be required to be transmitted to the Legislature prior to that meeting.

Advocates of Proposition 115 said:

  • It is important that the Governor be presented with as many qualified applicants as possible to pick from in making judicial appointments. Similarly, it is critical that voters have adequate access to judges' decisions and performance ratings in order to make an educated decision about which judges to retain at election.
  • Prop 115 gives more applicants an opportunity to be considered for judgeships. Currently, there could be dozens of applicants for a single position, yet only 3 names may be forwarded to the Governor for consideration. This is an unreasonably low number, and could deter very qualified people from even applying. Prop 115 fixes this problem by increasing the minimum number to 8, giving more applicants an opportunity to be considered. Prop 115 increases the qualifications for attorney members of nominating commissions; more qualified people screening applicants for judgeships just makes sense. It also requires judicial opinions to be published online, increasing transparency and accountability to the public.
  • This measure is a step forward to improve the accountability and transparency of how judges are selected in Arizona.
  • Party affiliation should not be a factor in evaluating the qualifications of judges.
  • When you vote on judges, how do you know if the judges on the ballot have done a good job? Prop. 115 gives you more information about how the judges perform in office so you can make an informed decision when you cast your vote. As for selecting new judges, competition produces excellence.
  • Prop. 115 improves the selection process to make sure that each and every judicial vacancy is filled based on merit, not politics.

Opponents of Proposition 115 said:

  • It would basically eliminate the State Bar's role in the judicial selection process and leave it in the hands of the Governor, who would appoint almost all members of the nominating commissions for Maricopa County, Pima County and appellate court appointments.
  • The current "Merit Selection" system allows for a non-partisan method of judicial selection that Proposition 115 does not improve. Instead this proposition would politicize the selection of judges.
  • In our current system, selection committees made up of fifteen private citizens, ten of whom are not lawyers, conduct extensive background investigations and interview applicants to evaluate their qualifications. Those citizen committees are required to recommend at least three judicial candidates to the Governor for each vacancy. The nominees cannot all be members of the same political party. The Governor then appoints one of the nominees. This system has been a nationally recognized success. Proposition 115 would increase partisan political influence and could reduce the quality of our judges. First, it would increase political control of the appointment of the selection committees by giving the Governor power to appoint fourteen of the fifteen members. Second, its requirement that selection committees nominate at least eight instead of three applicants could result in the appointment of less qualified or unqualified judges. Third, it allows all of the nominees to be members of the same political party. Fourth, it would subject judges to political pressure by allowing the Legislature to conduct hearings on judges who are on the voter retention ballot.
  • Our court system has been a model for the rest of the nation for creating an impartial and independent judiciary. Merit selection by the Governor appointing from a list of candidates by Nominating Commissions has worked very well and no change is required.
  • Judges will be required to testify before the legislature about their decisions before their retention election, replacing an independent non-partisan evaluation process. Prop 115 invites political interference in the judicial branch, weakens the separation of powers and threatens judicial independence and impartiality.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 115?

23% of those responding voted: Yes, we should increase judge terms; raise retirement age; change how judges are appointed; put decisions online; require Legislature to review judge performance.

76% of those responding voted: No, we should keep the system the way it is now.
UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

3. Proposition 116 / Property Tax Exemptions

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 116 would amend the Arizona Constitution to allow the state to exempt from taxation the “full cash value” of equipment and machinery or “personal property” used in agriculture or in a trade or business, up to an amount equal to the annual earnings of fifty workers in AZ. To determine the amount of the exemption, AZ would use a national measure of employee earnings, and would adjust it annually. Under current Arizona law, the first $50,000 of full cash value of equipment and machinery used in agriculture or in a trade or business is exempt from tax and the amount is adjusted annually for inflation. It is currently set at $68,079. If approved, the new exemption would apply to equipment and machinery acquired beginning in the 2013 and the current exemption would continue for equipment and machinery acquired before 2013.

Advocates of Proposition 116 said:

  • Proposition 116 will create thousands of new jobs in Arizona by removing one of the heaviest drags on our small businesses. It does so without creating a new bureaucracy or spending taxpayers' money.
  • This tax incentive would allow Businesses to upgrade their old equipment, and purchase high tech equipment without paying additional personal property taxes on the new equipment. This incentive creates manufacturing jobs and incentives to lower small business energy costs.
  • Proposition 116 encourages job creation by reducing the tax burden on equipment and machinery. This is especially beneficial to small businesses and startups because the tax on equipment and machinery is owed regardless of profitability or whether a new company has actually sold any products.
  • Arizona's equipment and machinery tax is a serious impediment to economic growth, investment and job creation. Passing Proposition 116 will reduce this burden and make it easier for local businesses to expand while simultaneously making us far more attractive to employers seeking escape from high-tax and high-regulation states like California.

Opponents of Proposition 116 said:

  • No arguments against this proposition were submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 116?

74% of those responding voted: Yes, the tax exemption for equipment and machinery should be changed to be equal to the combined earnings of 50 AZ workers.

25% of those responding voted: No, the tax exemption should remain as it is.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

4. Proposition 117 / Property Tax Assessed Valuation

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 117 would cap the annual increase in the value of real property used to calculate property taxes to 5% over the value of the property for the previous year, beginning with the 2015 tax year. Currently, there is no limit on full cash value.

Advocates of Proposition 117 said:

  • This will protect property taxpayers from dramatic increases in property valuations that often lead to significant tax increases. A reasonable limit of 5% will provide greater predictability for taxpayers and will bring stability to future local government budgets.
  • The current system is flawed with many complicated formulas that are outdated and no longer are applicable. The Limited Value formula needs to be simplified and property taxes need to be more predictable. This measure does both.
  • By taxing property owners on one value rather than the current method that uses two different valuations, everyone will be better able to predict their property tax burden. In addition, a 5% limit on the growth of property valuations will ensure short that short-term spikes in property value, do not result in exorbitant, unsustainable tax bills for property owners.
  • This measure will provide predictability to a system that has been extremely volatile. This volatility has placed significant burdens on homeowners who have experienced significant tax increases and businesses seeking to plan for new investments in hiring and capital. Proposition 117 will simplify the property tax system by using a single limited value for the calculation of all property taxes.
  • Our property values on average have dropped more than 30 percent, but taxes have not because Arizona raised the tax rate as values plummeted, taking a higher percentage of your equity. As values start rising again, so will your tax bill, and now based on newer rates that in most cases are the highest they have been in years. Prop 117 would limit government from gorging on property owners in times of rapidly increasing valuations, which we might be facing again. It will limit government to more sustainable growth levels.

Opponents of Proposition 117 said:

  • Prop 117 does nothing to prevent taxing authorities from raising property taxes. Municipalities can raise the tax rate on property owners to offset any loss in tax revenue. All Prop 117 does is reduce the current cap on Limited Property Values (LPV) from 10% to 5%. If the existing Constitutional cap of 10% is not working, why would 5% be effective?
  • Passage of Prop 117 would change the constitution to allow unfair and inequitable taxation; it only caps appraisal values. Therefore, governmental bodies can merely increase the tax rates to make up the difference - they have done it before. Because the implementation of appraisal caps always shifts taxation away from higher appreciating property to lower appreciating property, developers and large land owners will have some of their tax burden shifted over to owners of houses in medium and low income neighborhoods. The right way to limit Arizona property taxes is to cap tax rates or cap government budgets. Studies show that appraisal caps are bad public policy. It is best to not change the constitution unless you fully understand and agree with the change.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 117?

49% of those responding voted: Yes, increases in assessed property values should be capped at 5% more than the previous year.

50% of those responding voted: No, leave it the way it is.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said yes; this proposition passed.

5. Proposition 118 / Establishment of Permanent Funds

Proposed Constitutional Amendment. State trust lands produce revenue for AZ schools, colleges and prisons. If passed Proposition 118 would amend the Arizona Constitution to provide that for fiscal years 2012-2013 through 2020-2021, the amount of state trust land permanent funds provided to the various public institutions would be 2.5% of the average market values of the fund for the immediately preceding five calendar years. After fiscal year 2020-2021, the distribution formula would return to the current formula, average total rate of return for the previous five fiscal years, less percentage change in inflation, multiplied by the average market value over the previous five years.

Advocates of Proposition 118 said:

  • The formula used to distribute earnings was critically flawed. Its complications have resulted in uneven and unpredictable outcomes - including a year when zero dollars were distributed for K-12 education. If left unchanged, this current formula would likely result in several additional years of zero dollar distributions. An endowment this large should never have years of zero dollars available to benefit Arizona's children and teachers.
  • Public education is by far the largest beneficiary of State Trust Land and the State Land Department manages 8.1 million acres of land on behalf of K-12 education, and the Permanent Land Endowment Trust fund is worth more than $3.5 billion. Earning money for Arizona's public schools is the primary mission of the Trust's management. In 2010 the State Land Department deposited $91.7 million in the Endowment. Because of the inadequacy of the current formula used to distribute earnings from the Endowment, K-12 education received no money in 2010. Prop 118 fixes that inadequate formula. Had the new formula been in place in 2010, public education would have received $48 million from the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund.
  • Under the current system, we feast when times are good, and starve when times are bad. The method proposed by Prop. 118 will allow the trust to grow substantially when times are good, leaving plenty of savings to help fund the school system through difficult economic times.

Opponents of Proposition 118 said:

  • No arguments against Prop 118 were submitted to the AZ Secretary of State.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 118?

78% of those responding voted: Yes, change the formula used to distribute funds from the State Land Trust for the fiscal years 2013 through 2021.

21% of those responding voted: No, the formula for distributing the funds should stay as it is.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

6. Proposition 119 / Relating to State Trust Lands

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 119 would allow the state to exchange state trust land for other public land in AZ if the exchange would assist in preserving and protecting military facilities in AZ from encroaching development, or if it would improve the management of state lands for the sale, lease or conversion of state land to public use. Before that would happen, two independent appraisals must be conducted showing that the value of the land the state receives in the exchange is at least as valuable as the land it is giving up.

Two independent analyses must be conducted showing the financial, physical, economic and natural resource impacts of the exchange on each county, city, town and school district that would be affected by the exchange. Public hearings must be held and the exchange would have to be approved by the voters in a statewide election.

While federal law gives Arizona flexibility in managing and disposing of trust land by allowing the state to exchange trust land for other public or private lands, Arizona never amended the state Constitution to incorporate that authority. The Arizona Supreme Court has determined that without amending the Arizona Constitution, the state cannot conduct land exchanges.

Advocates of Proposition 119 said:

  • This would authorize land exchanges between the State Land Department and the Federal Government. The land exchanges can be for two purposes: improving the management of the state lands for the purpose of sale or lease or conversion to public use or for the protecting military facilities. Any exchange will have to be referred to the ballot by the legislature and approved by the voters in order to be consummated. All exchanges must have two appraisals, an analysis, and be vetted at two public meetings. Full and up-front disclosure of the parcels involved is also required, so there will be no surprises regarding which lands are involved. Voters have been skeptical of past land exchange measures that gave broad open-ended exchange authority to the State Land Department. This measure reigns in that authority and says there must be public involvement and review as well as public support via a vote prior to any exchange. This will help address checkerboard land ownership that hinders protection of wildlife habitat and will help protect state trust lands that are adjacent to some military facilities.
  • Preserving our system of military bases in Arizona means keeping thousands of jobs and an economic contribution in excess of $9 billion per year. Prop 119 allows the Arizona State Land Department to help in preserving military bases and facilities by providing land for those uses, while, at the same time, earning money for public schools and other institutions. It honors private property rights, including water rights, through independent appraisals and public hearings. It requires all parties involved to engage in thorough and transparent public processes and hearings before any land exchange is undertaken.

Opponents of Proposition 119 said:

  • No arguments against Proposition 119 were submitted to the AZ Secretary of State.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 119?

77% of those responding voted: Yes, authorize the exchange of state trust lands if related to either protecting military facilities or improving the management of the lands subject to public hearings and a public vote.

22% of those responding voted: No, keep the current law about state trust lands as it is.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said yes; this proposition passed.

7. Proposition 120 / State Sovereignty

A proposed Constitutional Amendment. If passed Proposition 120 would declare Arizona’s sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state’s boundaries. Approval would repeal Arizona’s disclaimer of all right and title to public lands within the state (except Indian reservations).

Advocates of Proposition 120 said:

  • If passed, this proposition will provide Arizona with the same authority over its own natural resources enjoyed by other states. It will grant the state the ability to more effectively protect and harness the economic potential stored in the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within the state. Since 2001, over two million acres of Arizona's forests have burned due to irresponsible federal management. The proposition gives Arizona exclusive sovereignty over all state territories and resources, except for Indian reservations and lands ceded to the United States, such as military forts and installations. As Arizona's population continues to grow, it is imperative that the state be allowed to manage its own land and benefit from the wealth of its resources. The continued vitality of our state will depend heavily on our ability to exercise our authority over the natural wealth currently being denied us.
  • When the western territories became states, the federal government retained land within each of the western states in violation of federal law. Federal retention of that land hurts the economy of the western states and leaves them struggling to adequately fund public education, nurture their economies, and manage their forests and natural resources. The EPA threatens to close coal-generating power plants with excessive regulations. Closing these plants will result in higher utility costs for everyone. We can't build a bridge or perform needed flood control activities because of interference from numerous federal agencies. We experience catastrophic forest fires, loss of wildlife habitat, threats to community watersheds, and loss of jobs, all of which affect the economy everywhere in the state. When the federal government mismanages our forestlands, the state cannot intervene. Roads are being closed and citizens denied access across federal lands. It takes years to obtain mining permits from the federal government, and some areas are closed to mining all together. As a result, Arizona loses billions of dollars that could be used to fund education and address other budget concerns. Our abundant natural resources remain under the control of unelected federal bureaucrats. Arizona is a sovereign state, and we have a right to control the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife, and other natural resources within our boundaries. Passing Prop 120 would be a small but important step in asserting our state rights and a rejection of the archaic colonial control by the federal government.
  • The federal government claims jurisdiction over everything it desires in Arizona - the animals, the water, and the lands. Proposition 120 provides all of Arizona's citizens the opportunity to assert their opinion of whether or not we in Arizona or the federal government bureaucrats in Washington care more about our animals, water and lands.

Opponents of Proposition 120 said:

  • Proposition 120 destroys Arizona's iconic public lands heritage. The Legislature not only wants "exclusive authority" over all parks, forests and public lands - including Grand Canyon and Saguaro National Parks, Superstition Wilderness Area, and millions of acres - it has indicated that once it has them, it will sell them off to private interests. Our public lands are Arizona's heritage. They provide us with clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and unsurpassed recreation opportunities. The Legislature wants to sell our freedom to hike, camp, hunt, fish, view wildlife and enjoy unsurpassed scenery to whomever they wish, for whatever reason. Proposition 120 is a budget disaster.
  • The goal is to assert state control of public lands of national importance - forests, parks, monuments, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and more - lands that are a defining feature of Arizona, which fuel our economy, support our wildlife heritage, and sustain our quality of life. Federal laws providing for critical environmental protections would also be undermined - laws like the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. This proposition is unconstitutional. When we became a state 100 years ago, we made a contractual obligation with the rest of the nation regarding these federal public lands. These lands belong to all Americans.
  • This is an unconstitutional measure that would give Arizona sovereignty over federal public lands in Arizona, including Grand Canyon National Park. Its intent is to gain state control over national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges in Arizona, get rid of the federal land managing agencies, and undermine protections provided by federal laws that guide public land management. Asserting state sovereignty over federal lands makes no sense. It could be a massive waste of Arizona taxpayer dollars given that the American people and the federal government are not simply going to allow lands they currently own be taken away by Arizona. The state already has difficulty funding its own state park system and managing state trust lands, let alone trying to pay for management and care of all of the federal lands within its borders. The ownership of lands within the state by the federal government was part of the legislation allowing Arizona to become a state. Reneging on that promise could cause a cascade of unknown legal issues.

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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 120?

36% of those responding voted: Yes, repeal Arizona's disclaimer of all rights to federal public lands within the state. Declare Arizona's sovereignty over public lands and all natural resources within AZ, with certain exceptions.

63% of those responding voted: No, laws relating to Arizona's public lands should not be changed.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

8. Proposition 121 / Direct Primary Election Law

An initiative measure that would amend Arizona’s Constitution. If passed Proposition 121 would eliminate the primary election that allows each recognized political party in Arizona to select its own nominee for the general election starting in 2014. In its place would be a primary election system in which registered voters may vote for candidates regardless of political affiliation. The number of candidates who appear on the general election ballot would be limited to only the two who receive the most votes (“top two”) and any qualified write-in candidates, for any office where only one candidate is elected. For elections where more than one candidate is elected, the number of names on the ballot will be the number of candidates to be elected times two. Proposition 121 would not apply to the election of United States President.

When registering to vote, voters would be allowed to indicate a party preference in their own words and would not be limited to selecting from a list of recognized political parties or affiliations. Individuals may organize or join political parties and political parties may elect party officers, support or oppose candidates and participate in all elections, as long as the activity does not use public funds.

If passed, several issues would need to be decided by the Legislature, including who has access to the statewide voter database, how vacancies are handled, what percentage of votes will be set each year as the number of petition signatures required, how to pay for the two tier election and how to pay for the cost of implementation and conforming legislation.

The state government is currently responsible for the cost of sample ballots sent to voters. By consolidating the different types of party sample ballots, Proposition 121 is projected to reduce printing costs and result in a savings of between $165,000 and $278,000. Currently, local governments pay the other primary election expenses. Proposition 121 is expected to increase these expenses due to greater production and mailing of ballots primarily to independent voters on the early voting list who do not currently receive a primary ballot. The open primary may also increase the number of ballot pages. The additional local government cost is projected to range from $440,000 to $2 million.

Advocates of Proposition 121 said:

  • This would allow all Arizonans to vote in an open primary for the candidate of their choice, regardless of their party affiliation. It ends the current system of taxpayer-funded partisan primaries, and gives Independent voters and candidates an equal voice in the election process. Under the existing partisan primaries, small minorities of voters select candidates who often represent the ideological extremes of the parties. Under the current system, Independent voters, who are the fastest growing category of voters in Arizona and the U.S., have little or no role in the process. The true majority of voters are cut out of the process. Allowing every voter the right to vote in every election will result in elected officials who have to be accessible to all voters not just a powerful few.
  • Typically one party or another dominates a legislative district which means that for all practical purposes whoever wins the partisan primary will be victorious in the general election. Open Elections changes that dynamic in a positive way with all voters choosing among all candidates in a primary and the top two moving on to a runoff general election. Every voter is involved in every step of the election process.
  • This initiative would still allow candidates to identify their party affiliation on the ballot if they wish, and political parties would continue to be able to promote the candidates and issues of their choice. Also, "straight ticket" voters who want to support only candidates from a particular political party would still be free to do so. But, for the ever-increasing number of voters who want the option to vote for the candidates they believe will best represent them, regardless of party affiliation, the Open Elections Open Government Initiative would give them that choice.
  • Currently we elect along party lines, and the primary is at the heart of the matter. The current primary system seems to bring out extreme candidates, who often get elected and go to represent their party instead of the people. If Prop 121 passes an election will no longer be about party affiliation, but about who are the best overall candidates, and would loosen the political stranglehold that the two-party system has on our state/country.

Opponents of Proposition 121 said:

  • The Open Elections/Open Government initiative would effectively abolish political parties in Arizona by prohibiting them from organizing and nominating candidates for virtually all public offices. By preventing political parties from presenting their duly nominated candidates to the voters at election time, this initiative undermines freedom of choice for the voters and freedom of association for the people of Arizona. This initiative will make it more difficult to determine a candidate's position because of the lack of party affiliation and is widely viewed as an incumbency protection act. Open primary elections in other states did not live up to their promises and, in fact, lowered voter turnout. A general election with two candidates from the same faction with similarly held beliefs would diminish voter turnout through lack of interest.
  • The proponents of Prop 121 would have you believe that Arizona does not currently have an "open primary" system. This is categorically false. The truth is, Independent voters in Arizona have the right to vote at any election for any candidate by choosing a party ballot in a primary election.
  • This proposition has sprung up from frustration over extreme, embarrassing or ineffectual government. Many well-meaning Arizonans support this initiative as an answer, stating it will elect more moderates. Frustrations are understandable, but this is not the answer. General elections in some areas will have no choice of a different party candidate, resulting in one party control. All minor party candidates (and probably Independents) will be off the general election ballot. Voter turnout will decrease. Supporters suggest it will increase turnout in primary, but the first similar California primary in June showed the opposite, resulting in dismal turnout (worst presidential primary since early 1950s). Supporters claim that having only two candidates advance to the general election ensures a majority vote without spoiler effect from a third candidate. However, this was not the case in the recent the California election. There are potential solutions to election structure in Arizona that might include: easing independent-candidate ballot access; repealing `sore loser' laws; allowing cross-filing, a true open primary, and ultimately using Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as our election system. Proposition 121 is not the right solution.
  • This is an attempt to deceive voters. Backers of this proposition want to make it more difficult for voters to determine which candidate they politically and philosophically align with. All non-party-designated voters in Arizona can already vote in the Primary by requesting the ballot they want. The purpose of the primary is for people with common philosophies to elect their choice of candidate for the general election. This results in a general election that offers a variety of candidates with different philosophies. But with a wide-open primary, you could very well end up with candidates from the same party and the same ideology, leaving no choice for the voter.

 -   -   -   -   -

Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 121?

43% of those responding voted: Yes, replace the party primary election with a "top-two" primary in which all voters, regardless of party affiliation, vote in a combined primary, and the top two vote-getters advance to the ballot.

56% of those responding voted: No, keep the current primary election process as it is.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

9. Proposition 204 / Taxation

If passed, Proposition 204 would permanently increase the state sales tax rate by one cent per dollar beginning June 1, 2013, to a rate of 6.6 percent. The money collected from the tax increase would be used for educational programs, public transportation infrastructure projects and human services programs. Prop 204 would annually distribute the first one billion dollars of additional sales tax as follows:

(1) Five hundred million dollars into the “quality education and performance fund”, to assist school districts and charter schools with assessment and accountability requirements, including improvement plans for failing schools, to provide teacher and principal evaluation systems based in part on student achievement, to improve pupil reading proficiency by the end of third grade and to implement a system of testing and awarding diplomas to high school students who demonstrate readiness for college level math and English;

(2) Ten million dollars into the “education learning and accountability fund” to maintain a system for compiling student data and school finance data to meet state and federal reporting requirements;

(3) Ninety million dollars into the “education accountability and improvement fund” to provide performance funding to school districts and charter schools based on performance measures relating to academic progress, parental satisfaction and student engagement, to provide teacher training and for technology necessary to implement statewide academic standards and assessments;

(4) One hundred million dollars into the “state infrastructure fund”, to be used for a variety of transportation infrastructure projects, highway improvement projects and other transportation-related projects;

(5) Twenty-five million dollars into the “children’s health insurance program fund”, to be used for costs associated with the current publicly funded health care program for children under nineteen whose household income is at or below two hundred per cent of the federal poverty level;

(6) One hundred million dollars into the “family stability and self-sufficiency fund”, to be distributed to state agencies and private nonprofit entities as a match for federal funds for programs that provide for the basic needs of children, families and vulnerable adults whose household income is below two hundred per cent of the federal poverty level;

(7) Fifty million dollars into the “university scholarship, operations and infrastructure fund”, to be used to provide university scholarships to resident students based on financial need or academic achievement, and the remaining fund monies would be allocated to the three state universities for operating and infrastructure expenses based on performance in meeting goals set by the Board of Regents;

(8) Up to one hundred twenty-five million dollars to the state general fund to fund the required inflationary adjustment for the kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade school system. Sales tax revenue over one billion dollars would be distributed to in established percentages for specific education-related programs, except 11% that would go to the “state infrastructure fund”.

The one cent tax is projected to generate $971 million in revenue in its first year. Of that amount, $753 million would be distributed to education, $97 million to transportation and $121 million to human service programs.

Advocates of Proposition 204 said:

  • This initiative prevents legislators from using the one-cent sales tax renewal as they wish. Every dollar must be spent as you designate, with 80 percent of the funding benefiting education across the spectrum: K-12, vocational education, community colleges, universities and GED programs. To protect your investment, the Legislature will be prohibited from cutting K-12 funding. Arizona must invest in education, not only to protect schoolchildren but to protect the state's economy. When companies decide to relocate or remain in Arizona, they base that decision on whether Arizona has a highly skilled, well-educated workforce.
  • The quality of education affects our ability to keep and recruit excellent employees, as well as recruit new companies with good-paying jobs. We depend on our state's educators to graduate students with the skills necessary to succeed in our rapidly changing job market so that Arizona remains competitive nationally and internationally. The Quality Education and Jobs initiative provides the investment in education that Arizona needs to thrive economically. Arizona is one of 45 states that have adopted a new, more rigorous curriculum called the Common Core and a new test tied to the new standards that will replace AIMS. Teachers and principals will have one-third to one-half of their evaluations tied directly to how well their students perform. We must invest in education at this critical time to ensure that our teachers in the classroom have the resources they need to help our state's 1 million schoolchildren succeed. The initiative also guarantees state investment in Arizona's transportation infrastructure, which also is critical to Arizona's economic health. Arizona must have safe and efficient highways, roads and transit for Arizona to keep the job-creating businesses it has and recruit new ones to the state.
  • The best feature of this initiative is that it directs how this tax will be spent. With the potential of an additional one billion dollars, it will provide a minimum funding level that cannot be reduced by the legislature. Funding will be available to support teachers in carrying out more rigorous education standards. An accountability structure will be implemented. It ensures children of lower-income families will be healthy and ready to learn. This initiative is a very ambitious effort to correct the funding cuts imposed by the Legislature upon the states' population.
  • Prop 204 creates a stable, dedicated revenue source for education that will help create highly educated and skilled students. Arizona has been grappling with poor economic times. For K-12 education, this has meant nearly one-fifth of funding cut from public schools in the past four years - the second biggest cut in education funding among all the states. Rather than investing in Arizona's and our students' future, our legislature created mandates without the resources to ensure they are successful.
  • All of this revenue is available simply by renewing an existing sales tax at the same rate, one cent per dollar, that was approved by the voters in 2010 to fund education and health programs. Without a yes vote on the Prop 204, the tax approved in 2010 will expire on May 31, 2013 and this revenue will be lost to our schools and communities.

Opponents of Proposition 204 said:

  • Arizona does not need more budgeting by the ballot box, nor do we need to further hamstring our legislature. Our governor and legislature are constitutionally required to balance the budget. Every permanent earmark makes that job harder. The temporary -- emphasis on "temporary" -- sales tax was approved in 2010 as an emergency measure, but the time for the sales tax increase has passed and it is time for the legislature to continue to do the things necessary to get our state's fiscal house in order.
  • Two years ago - during some of our state's toughest times - Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 100, a three-year tax increase needed to stave off drastic cuts to education. Prop 204 only pretends to fund the reforms we desperately need. Proponents of this measure want you to commit to permanently pay 18% more in state sales taxes without requiring any reforms or guaranteeing any results. Proposition 204 is overly complicated and confusing. Even experts cannot agree what happens to the tax dollars collected. Let's spend any new revenues on meaningful reforms that will improve student achievement and graduation rates and reward our teachers and principals with pay that recognizes their outstanding performance.
  • Arizona citizens were told that the sales tax increase would be temporary, not permanent. Combined sales tax rates in many Arizona cities are already higher than in New York City and Los Angeles. The current combined sales tax rate in Phoenix is 9.3%; Glendale's is 10.2%, and Buckeye is at 10.3%. This initiative will effectively strip the right of Arizona citizens to provide input on future budget decisions. Right now the state legislature and Governor are required to balance the state budget. This initiative puts huge portions of the state budget on auto-pilot driven by formulas.
  • Prop 204 is a permanent one cent per dollar sales tax increase without a comprehensive approach to improving education. It lacks the ability to change the use of the funds if Arizona's priority changes. It allows funds to be distributed to schools regardless of performance without specifying new programs or alternatives for failing schools to improve. It allows a few groups to determine how funding for education, healthcare and transportation are determined while tying the hands of those who were elected to make such decisions. Let the temporary sales tax increase expire as the voters desired when they approved it in 2010. Now is not the time to raise taxes as mandated by this ill advised plan.
  • A high-performing education system requires the financial resources necessary to produce a highly qualified workforce. Proposition 100 in 2010, which established a temporary one cent per dollar sales tax, helped prevent deep cuts to the K-12 system during the economic downturn. Despite what proponents of Proposition 204 might say, it is not an extension of the current sales tax that is set to expire on May 31, 2013. This is an entirely new permanent tax with new implications for policymakers and our state. This new permanent tax does not increase accountability nor does it demand increased achievement from our education system.
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Prior to the election I published a poll on the issue. I posed the question: Will you vote in favor of Proposition 204?

36% of those responding voted: Yes, we should permanently increase the state sales tax by one cent per dollar to fund educational programs, public transportation infrastructure projects, and human services.

63% of those responding voted: No, we should not implement a one cent per dollar increase in the state sales tax.

UPDATE November 2012: The voters said no; this proposition failed.

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