Cuts on the Way

Tucson voters overwhelmingly reject a proposed sales-tax increase

The city of Tucson will have to make deeper budget cuts and consider other tax and fee increases after voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 400, which would have raised sales taxes within the city by a half-cent per dollar to raise an additional $40 million a year.

"I think the voters have spoken," said Shaun McClusky, who headed up the opposition to Prop 400. As of our press deadline, more than 60 percent of voters had rejected Prop 400.

The city is facing a $50 million budget deficit.

"The voters don't trust the city manager, and they don't trust the City Council," said McClusky, who made his political debut last year with an unsuccessful run for the City Council.

McClusky said the City Council now needs to look at further budget cuts, but if "any City Council member (or City Manager) Mike Letcher goes after one firefighter or one police officer, and if any of them go for re-election, I think they will not win."

McClusky cited Sun Tran, the city's bus system, as an example of where budget cuts could begin.

Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham said he wasn't surprised to see Prop 400 fail.

"We're going to have to make some tough decisions," Cunningham said. "There are some alternative revenue streams out there."

Republican City Councilman Steve Kozachik cited a critical report by the Arizona Auditor General regarding Rio Nuevo spending as a sign that the city needs to better manage taxpayer money.

"The voters have spoken. (Prop 400's defeat) says: 'We don't trust you with our money,'" Kozachik said.

Voters also rejected Proposition 401, a collection of city-charter changes that would have granted a pay raise to council members; given more power to the mayor; and handed more authority to the city manager to fire department heads. As of our deadline, 56 percent of voters were rejecting Prop 401.

Kozachik blamed the defeat of Prop 401 on the pay-increase clause.

The state will also be facing a larger budget deficit after voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 302, which would have moved some $324 million in tobacco-tax collections from the First Things First fund—for early childhood programs—into the general fund. Voters also rejected Proposition 301, which would have similarly moved roughly $123 million in land-conservation monies into the general fund.

That means state lawmakers will now have to bridge a deficit of as much as $825 million in the current fiscal year, according to recent Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates.

Meanwhile, Proposition 203, which would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state, was too close to call as of our press deadline. As of 10:45 p.m. on Election Night, 50.36 percent voters were rejecting the measure—a margin of fewer than 8,800 votes.

Other proposition results, as of 10:45 p.m. Tuesday:

• Proposition 106, a state constitutional amendment regarding health care that would, among other things, mandate that Arizonans have a right to refuse to buy health insurance, was passing with 55.4 percent of the vote.

• Proposition 107, which would ban affirmative-action programs by the state, was passing with 59.7 percent of the vote.

• Proposition 109, which would establish a constitutional right to hunt, was defeated, with 56.1 percent voters saying no.

• Proposition 110, which would allow the state to swap state-trust lands, was too close to call, as yes led no by about 6,500 votes (out of 1.17 million).

• Proposition 111, which would have changed the name of the secretary of state to lieutenant governor—to make it clear that the secretary of state is next in line if the governor leaves office—was being rejected by 58.6 percent of voters.

• Proposition 112, which would amend the state Constitution to push back the deadline for filing petitions for initiative campaigns by two months, was too close to call, with no leading yes by about 1,400 votes.

• Proposition 113, which would amend the state Constitution to block unions from forming without a secret vote of potential members, was winning with 60.9 percent of the vote.

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