Ballot Issues Test Anti-Tax Mood

The nation's fervor against taxing and spending will be tested beginning Tuesday in a series of state and local ballot measures seeking major tax hikes to preserve government services.

The ballot issues are making for odd alliances and potential election surprises. Some places friendly to the anti-tax "Tea Party" movement appear ready to raise taxes while opposition to public employee labor contracts is gaining strength in traditional union strongholds.

On May 18, Arizona will decide the biggest and most important measure: a 1-cent sales tax hike for three years that will lift the state's rate to 6.6% and the rate for Phoenix to 9.3%, one of the nation's highest.

The tax increase has no significant organized opposition and is leading in polls. The pro-tax sentiment comes in a state known for conservative politics, including a tough new crackdown on illegal immigration.

Other key votes:

Ohio. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to borrow $700 million over five years to help high-tech businesses. The move has support from Democratic and Republican leaders and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and no organized opposition.

Grand Rapids, Mich. The city — a Democratic union stronghold — wants voters Tuesday to raise the income tax on residents from 1.3% to 1.5%. Stumbling block: The city needs more money to fund retiree pensions for city workers. "That makes it a hard sell to voters," says Mayor George Heartwell.

Toledo, Ohio. The school district wants a new 0.75% income tax approved Tuesday. Some prominent black community leaders, usually school supporters, oppose the tax and want cost-cutting in teacher union contracts.

Arizona GOP Senate Candidates Oppose Tax Increases

In Arizona, where conservative radio host J.D. Hayworth, a Tea Party favorite, is challenging Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer fought to put the sales tax hike on the ballot. The state Chamber of Commerce and other traditional anti-tax stalwarts support the tax. The most prominent opponents are McCain and Hayworth.

"If you're on the outside looking in, it seems like a disconnect," says tax hike supporter Bob Barrett, the Republican mayor of Peoria, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb of 157,000. "But, here, it's not really a political issue. It's a school issue."

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