Friday, October 10, 2003

Blackwell group redoes tax repeal petitions

Backers of referendum add a missing phrase

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A group headed by Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell on Thursday gave Attorney General Jim Petro petitions with 247 signatures, seeking permission to pursue a repeal of the penny-per-dollar sales tax increase that lawmakers approved this year.

The new petitions were necessary because Petro rejected the group's first attempt, saying a summary of the repeal was not a "fair and truthful statement" of the proposed amendment.

Petro would not certify the original petitions circulated by Citizens for Tax Repeal because although they mentioned that the tax increase was temporary, they did not include the words "that will expire on June 30, 2005."

The new petitions include those words. The petitions must contain the valid signatures of 100 registered voters. The signatures were collected in Franklin and Hamilton counties.

"It appears the secretary of state has added the expiration date of the tax into the summary language, which is what the attorney general had suggested," Petro spokeswoman Kim Norris said.

She said Petro's office would send the petitions "as quickly as possible" to the two counties' boards of elections.

If the summary is approved, Blackwell's group would have until Dec. 15 to submit 96,870 signatures - or 3 percent of the total vote in the 2002 election for governor - to force the Legislature to debate the repeal next year.

If the Legislature refuses to repeal the tax increase, the group could collect another 96,870 signatures and put it on the November 2004 ballot.

Repeal group spokesman Gene Pierce said the two counties' boards of election told the group they would expedite their review of the signatures.

"Assuming that the signatures were submitted and we satisfied this obligation, we hope it would take a very little time, no more than a day or two," Pierce said.

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