PHOENIX -- Arizona voters may decide this fall whether they want to throw a roadblock in the way of their ability to approve future tax hikes.
On a voice vote, the House gave preliminary approval to changing the state constitution so that any future tax hikes would not pass unless 60 percent of those going to the polls support it. A roll-call vote this coming week will send the measure to the Senate.
Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, who is pushing HCR2043, said the super-majority requirement makes sense.
"It's just designed to make it a little more difficult to get a tax increase passed," he said.
Stevens said he recognizes that, generally speaking, a majority gets to decide public policy. But he said the additional hurdle is justified.
"Sometimes these initiatives are put out in a deceptive manner," Stevens said.
He specifically mentioned measures for school district budget overrides. Stevens said the school board, which is seeking the extra cash, sets the rules.
"You get to dictate the means and manner in which that election is handled," Stevens said.
Using his own community as an example, Steven said Sierra Vista has more than 20 voting precincts for regular elections. But scheduling an override for a date other than the regular biennial primary or general election allows the board to consolidate polling places to perhaps as few as four, "which is very confusing."
"Sometimes -- more than sometimes -- that is done on purpose," he charged.
The idea of requiring a supermajority drew some criticism.
Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said the change would have a "chilling effect on our ability to fund infrastructure projects we need and the school override and bonds we need.
"It's tough enough to win 51 percent of the vote in these types of situations," he said.
Farley pointed out that it took voters in Pima County four times over two decades to finally approve funding for a regional transportation plan. And even at that, the tax question on the ballot got just 57.6 percent of the vote -- meaning it would have fallen short under the proposal.
And Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said raising the bar "really shows a mistrust of the public."
But Stevens pointed out that his measure would not take effect unless voters approve the change in November, a change that would take just a simple majority to approve.
There is precedent for what Stevens wants: An existing constitutional provision requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate before any increase in state taxes.
Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, said he's not a big fan of that particular section, saying it has tied the hands of lawmakers in dealing with problems. But Vogt agreed to support the measure because the voters will have the final say.
HCR2043 needs a final roll-call vote in the House before going to the Senate.