The Arizona Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court’s determination that not enough valid signatures were obtained on petitions seeking a statewide referendum on an increase in the sales tax to fund a proposed transportation effort.
Supporters of the coalition known as TIME — Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona’s Economy — sought voter approval for an increase in the state sales tax from the current 5.6% to 6.6%, which would generate $42.6 billion over 30 years.
Proceeds from bonds supported by the additional tax would have financed expansions of several interstate highways, proponents said, along with commuter rail between Phoenix and Tucson, expanded light rail in the Phoenix area, additional rapid transit buses, and a streetcar or bus system in Tucson.
The ballot measure would have authorized the Arizona Transportation Board to issue 30-year bonds supported by the additional sales tax.
TIME sued Secretary of State Jan Brewer and the Maricopa County elections recorder after Brewer said the petitions fell short of the 153,365 signatures necessary to get a place on the November ballot. Supports submitted 260,968 signatures, but 122,247 of them were ruled invalid.
The suit was rejected by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge. The Supreme Court declined to overturn the lower court’s decision.
Brewer said it was unusual that so many signatures were rejected.
“I am very surprised that a ballot measure ended up with over 42% of its signatures being invalid,” she said. “That is among the largest overall invalid rates that I can recall ever seeing from a citizens initiative drive.
“TIME spent $1 million for bad signatures, and that is not my fault or the fault of the county recorders who tossed invalid signatures,” Brewer said.