Arizona voters approved Proposition 100 Tuesday, with 63.9 percent of voters in favor of the temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, according to unofficial Secretary of State results.
With 98.7 percent of poll sites reporting, Prop. 100 received 693,129 yes votes (64.1 percent) compared to 388,750 no votes (35.9 percent).
More than 999,000 ballots have been counted so far in the state, with most of those being from Maricopa County.
State results can be seen at http://www.azsos.gov/results/2010/special/BM100.htm.
Lawmakers say the tax increase will put close to $1 billion a year for three years into public education, health and safety.
"It's a celebratory mood," said Chandler Unified School District spokesman Terry Locke, who was with other Prop. 100 supporters in Phoenix Tuesday night. "There's a lot of relief."
The Chandler district already cut $14.8 million for next school year's budget, but faced an additional $14.8 million in cuts if the measure failed.
"We understand education has to play a role in the state getting its house in order. We realize we have to cut $14.8 million next year ... We can handle it. We can make some cuts and really avoid serious cuts to programs and still maintain our teacher-pupil ratio and keep quality personnel," Locke said. "We were very concerned if we had to trim almost $30 million next year whether we could keep our core programming intact. There's definitely a sense of relief."
Mesa Unified School District governing board president Dave Lane said "it's good news."
"We only have to cut $25 million, which is pretty doable and we'd planned on it," Lane said. "Looking down the road, this is only a three-year increase in the revenues. I'm really hoping the next Legislature and whoever the governor is tries to work through the long-term financial standing of Arizona and hopefully they can put aside some of their partisanship and bickering and get down to business and solve some of the long-term financial challenges our state has."
Gov. Jan Brewer spent the past year arguing with lawmakers to put Prop. 100 on the ballot. Supporters of the measure raised more than $2.6 million to get the word out, mostly through television advertising and mailings. The anti-tax group raised less than $1,500.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents big businesses in Arizona, supported Prop. 100, but the National Federation of Independent Business opposed the measure.
With final approval, the state's sales tax will rise from 5.6 cents on every dollar to 6.6 cents.
Lawmakers said the funds are needed to help fill the gap created by revenue shortfalls to state coffers for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1. When the Legislature started grappling with the new budget, a $4 billion shortfall was projected.
Brewer said the new cash, coupled with spending cuts and budget maneuvers like borrowing, will give Arizona a chance to weather the recession.
The governor said she has a commission looking at ways to trim government expenses. At the same time, Brewer said her plans to replace the state Department of Commerce with a quasi public authority should help generate new jobs to stimulate new tax revenues.
Ultimately, Brewer said the measure passed because Arizonans believed her message that there is no responsible way to balance the budget without new revenues.
"I think it means the people around Arizona ... have listened, heard me tell the truth and voted accordingly," she said.
But state Treasurer Dean Martin, a foe of the levy, had a different explanation.
"I think at the end of the day the lesson is fear works," said Martin, one of several Republicans challenging Brewer in the Republican primary. "You scare people basically enough and they'll feel like they have no choice."
To address the state budget for next year, lawmakers passed two budgets: one that makes cuts to several state agencies and includes revenues from Prop. 100, and one that made an additional $862 million in cuts - most of which would be to the public education system - if Prop. 100 failed.
Education in Arizona makes up more than 40 percent of state spending. When lawmakers put the measure on the ballot, they earmarked two-thirds of the funds for schools. The rest will go to health programs, public safety and social services.
Leaders of Arizona's school districts and charter schools, as well as the state universities, also drafted contingency plans on what to do if the measure failed. Proposals included everything from increasing class sizes to cutting staff to eliminating programs.
Now, the state university system will be spared an additional $107 million in cuts, and community colleges will dodge an additional $15.2 million cut in state dollars.
The state Department of Health Services' budget faced a $40 million cut next fiscal year without Prop. 100 passing. The Department of Public Safety, which already cut $4 million next year, along with requiring staff to take a 2.75 percent salary reduction, faced a $10.9 million cut.
Number of votes, percentage of votes
Yes 693,129 64.1%
No 388,750 35.9%
Precincts reporting 98.7%
Source: Latest unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s website