PHOENIX — Secretary of State Ken Bennett was wrong in refusing to process initiative petitions seeking to permanently extend the state's one-cent sales tax, a judge ruled today.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Oberbillig rejected claims by Michele Forney, an assistant attorney general, that initiative backers did not submit a correct copy of the plan to Bennett's office when they began circulating the petitions.

Oberbillig agreed that the paper copy provided is different than the version attached to the petitions signed by more than 290,000 people. And that difference affects how $350 million of anticipated tax proceeds is divided up.

But the judge said the Quality Education and Jobs Committee did give Bennett a correct version — albeit on disk.

And he said that was enough to comply with what election law requires.

More to the point, Oberbillig said there is no evidence that anyone signing the petitions was misled. He pointed out that the correct version was attached to each petition sheet, giving would-be signers a chance to read the full measure first if they wanted.

Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake said no decision has been made whether to appeal.

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.