Tax measure scores legal victory

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- It was a big victory Wednesday for those who want to extend a temporary sales tax increase for education.

Maricopa County Court Judge Robert Oberbillig ruled that a measure seeking to keep the tax hike can go on the ballot.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett had tried blocking the measure from moving forward over a clerical error but the judge did not see it his way.

Bennett could still appeal the decision. Matt Roberts, a spokesman for his office, said his boss will likely make that decision by the end of the week.

But that didn't stop supporters of the Quality Education and Jobs Act from celebrating. Ann-Eve Pedersen, a spokeswoman for the measure, said she was very pleased with the outcome.

"What Judge Oberbillig did is he correctly applied the law and the constitution and he really questioned why we were even in court today," Pedersen said outside the courthouse in Phoenix.

Election officials still have to finish up the paperwork before officially placing the question on the fall ballot. Should it pass, the nearly $1 billion in added revenue would go mostly toward education.

George Cunningham, the treasurer for the citizen group pushing for the tax hike, said that is where the money is needed the most.

"It's well understood by the people of the state of Arizona that Arizona’s K-12 education is grossly underfunded we're still on a per student basis in the bottom two states 49th or 50th or whatever," Cunningham said.

In 2010, Governor Jan Brewer pushed for a three year temporary sales tax increase saying at the time that the state needed the money to survive the economic recession.

Voters eventually approved the measure by big numbers, but Brewer has said she won't support the tax increase this time around. The governor said she might even campaign against it.