Arizona rejects sales tax, election measures

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona voters have firmly rejected measures to increase the state sales tax and to make a major change in the state's election system.

Voters also said no to proposals to give the governor more say in judicial appointments and to declare state sovereignty over most of Arizona's federal land.

The one-cent sales tax increase would have made permanent a temporary voter-approved increase of the same amount that expires next year. Revenue from the permanent increase would have been directed to education, highway projects, social services and health care.

Supporters had touted the tax increase measure to fund priorities neglected by the Legislature, while opponents said a tax increase wasn't necessary and that making it permanent would be an added tax burden to stifle the economy.

The so-called "top two" election measure would have changed how Arizona conducts primary elections. Approval would have meant that the top two finishers in the primary regardless of party affiliation would advance to the general election. Voters would have been able to cast ballots in the primary regardless of party affiliation.

The rejection means the state will retain its traditional system where each party's nominee advances to the general election. Only those registered with a party can vote in that party's primary election.

Supporters said the proposal would produce more candidates willing to work across party lines. Critics said it would weaken political parties and the voices they provide.

Both the sales tax and primary election questions were put on the ballot through initiative campaigns, while the remaining seven ballot measures were referred to voters by the Legislature.

The sales tax and election measures were placed on the ballot by voter initiative. The other seven measures were referred by the Legislature.

Not everything was rejected. Voters approved a crime victims measure and a proposal capping property tax increases. A measure allowing, under certain circumstances, the exchange of state lands for federal or public trust lands also was approved.

A proposed constitutional amendment to increase commercial and agricultural property tax exemptions was turned down.