PHOENIX - Led by firefighters, backers of Proposition 100 have accumulated at least $419,000 in their bid to persuade voters to raise sales taxes.
Reports on file with the Secretary of State's Office show that the contributors include 11 groups that have kicked in at least $10,000 each. State law requires that their donations be reported immediately.
That total does not include smaller donations, and it includes only what was received and spent through Feb. 23.
To date, the Ax the Tax Committee, headed by state Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, has reported no large donations. Its first financial report is due Friday.
A poll by an Oregon firm, paid for by Proposition 100 supporters, was released Monday. It reported that 39 percent of 506 likely voters said they definitely planned to support boosting the state sales tax by a penny per dollar, to a total of 6.6 cents on every dollar of taxable items sold, for the next three years. Nineteen percent described themselves as likely to vote for the measure. Early voting for the May 18 election will begin in less than six weeks.
Pro-100 publicist David Leibowitz said the plans are to have commercials running before early voting starts.
Pearce said efforts are under way to try to come up with money for an anti-tax campaign. But he said there is no way that opponents will match the money of contributors, adding that much of the pro-100 funding comes from those who "live off taxpayer dollars."
That includes not only public-employee unions but companies that benefit from public contracts.
Pearce said the lack of funds is not a major impediment, noting that tax increases proposed in California last year failed, even though supporters spent eight times as much as foes.
"We have the blogs," he said. "We don't rely on mainstream media as much as we used to."
The additional penny would generate between $918 million and $947 million during the first year.
Legislation already approved by the House and Senate details $867.5 million in spending cuts if the ballot proposition fails. The largest would come from K-12 education - state aid and other support would shrink by nearly $428.6 million, on top of about $300 million in already-approved cuts.
The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System would lose $114 million.
The other big loser if the ballot measure fails would be the state's university system, which would be hit by a 12 percent drop in its funding, the equivalent of more than $107 million.
No money was cut from universities for the upcoming year in the just-enacted budget because current funding already is at 2006 levels. Going below that would put Arizona in violation of the pact made with the U.S. government when it took $832 million in federal stimulus funds for education.
Paul Senseman, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said the contingency budget - the one that would take effect if the tax increase fails - would break that deal. But Senseman said he believes that at that point, the state could seek a waiver and not be forced to repay the stimulus money.
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Top donors to effort to raise taxes
Major contributors to pro-100 campaign:
Professional Fire Fighters Association $100,000
Arizona Campaign for Arts and Culture $79,500
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry $50,000
Greater Phoenix Leadership Council $50,000
Arizona Education Association $30,000
Stand for Children $25,000
Friends of ASU $25,000
Arizona Public Service $25,000
Magellan Health Services $25,000
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona $10,000
Source: Secretary of State's Office