Monday, November 1, 2010

Major State Ballot Measures Voters Will Decide on Nov 2 – Part 1, Fiscal Legislation

Government Accountability, State Budget, Taxes, and Elections & Campaigns

Photo Credit - Flickr Common

In addition to voting for candidates on November 2, the mid-term election voters will also be deciding numerous statewide ballot measures in the major hot topic areas such as taxes and state budgets as well as healthcare mandates and legalizing marijuana.

According to, 184 ballot questions have been certified for spots on the 38 statewide ballots in 2010, as of October 25, 2010. Specifically for the November 2, 2010 general election ballot, 160 ballot questions have been certified in 37 states.”

Ballotpedia further notes, “5 political topics dominate the 2010 ballot, and 3 of the 5 most popular topics each relate to fiscal policy. The ‘Big 5’ topics on the 2010 ballot are taxes, administration of government, elections and campaigns, bond issues, and state budgets. The number of 2010 ballot measures relating to fiscal topics is an increase of about 13% over the number of such measures on the 2008 ballot.”

“Government Administration” type ballot measures accounts for 25 down from 34 ballot measures in 2008. This represents the largest decrease of type with -9 from 2008 to 2010. States with this measure type include AZ, CO, GA, HI, ID, IL, LA, MI, MT, NE, OK, OR, SD, and UT.

Most notable is Illinois’ only statewide proposal “Illinois Governor Recall Amendment”, also called the “House Joint Constitutional Amendment 31”, which would allow voters to recall the Governor. Perhaps this comes out of Illinois’ experience this year that it might be easier to recall a Governor than to prosecute him/her.

“Government Accountability” has been a hot discussion topic this year, and there are 2 ballot measures of this type – 1 each in AK and NE. Taxpayer money and government fiscal responsibility were a part of the general accountability discussion of course. Statewide ballot measures reflect the growing watchdog voter attitudes. “Bond Issues” type make up 21 ballot measures in 9 states – AK, AR, ME, NE, NM, OH, OR, RI, and WA. Amendment 61 in CO perhaps displays lessons learned at the federal level on dificit spending – it forbids debt by loans in any form in CO.

There are 15 “State Budget” type ballot measures in 2010 compared with only 2 in this category in 2008. This represents the largest increase of type with +13 from 2008 to 2010. States with this measure type include AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, OK, SD, VA, and WA. Also add 2 additional “State Spending” type measures – CA and OK. Florida has also included a “Federal Budget” question on their ballot asking if Congress should add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that requires a balanced federal budget.

The ballot measure type “Taxes” shares the largest increase of type with “State Budget” with +13 from 26 in 2008 to 39 in 2010. Twenty-one states have tax measures on the ballot – AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, HI, IN, IO, LA, MA, ME, MO, MT, ND, NM, NV, OR, UT, VA, and WA. Louisiana has the most at 5 measures followed by CA and AL with 4. Colorado, MO, and WA all have 3.

Most significant in the “Taxes” category is CA’s Proposition 26 which mandates voters must give permission prior to any new taxes being imposed. Initiative 1053 on WA’s ballot requires a statewide vote or a 2/3 supermajority vote of the WA state legislature for tax increases.
Most interesting is WA Initiative 1107 which would repeal various 2010 state tax law amendments passed which included a sales tax on candy and bottled water and a temporary excise tax on soda pop. Perhaps they jumped on the nanny state bandwagon before they thought it through completely.

On June 8, ME passed veto referendum Question 1 the Main Tax Code People’s Veto resulting in overturning the tax reforms overall in its entirety approved by the ME legislature and signed by the Governor in 2009. The reform package vetoed included an increase in state meals and lodging taxes, broader state sales tax to include more items, and an income tax rate cut.
Oregon measures 66 and 67 already passed on a January 26, 2010 ballot. This raised the state’s high income individuals and corporate income taxes as a referendum on HB2649 and HB3405. Washington’s Initiative 1098 on the November 2 ballot is also about income taxes. If passed, it taxes gross income above $400,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals.

In addition, WA’s Initiative 1098 would reduce certain business and occupation taxes and state property taxes by 20%. Proposition 24 in CA goes the opposite direction proposing to eliminate 3 business tax breaks. I know, but I have to ask - Will this attract more business to the deficit plagued state? Yet, CA shows a sign of reality in its Propostion 23 under “Environment” type which proposes to suspend AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act” until unemployment falls below 5.5%.

Georgia on the other hand proposes with Referendum A to exempt business inventory from state property tax. Amendment R in CO proposes eliminating property taxes for business or individual that use government owned property for a private benefit.

Property taxes in general are a hot button item as reflected by several ballot measures for no property tax or additional homestead exemption for the military or the elderly in FL, LA, MO, and VA. Colorado’s Amendment 60 proposes a reduction in property taxes while LA’s Amendment 4 proposes property tax increases limitation; and IN’s Question 1 proposes adding a property tax cap IN Constitution Amendment.

Perhaps to head-off a possible federal VAT tax being imposed, MO and MT have ballot measures to prohibit any new taxes on the sale or transfer of all real estate.

State sales tax amount is being addressed in MA with ballot measure Question 3 to propose rolling back the 6.25% sales tax back to 3%. Going in the opposite direction, AZ’s Proposition 100 already passed on May 18. It increases state sales tax by 1% for 3 years.

“Elections & Campaigns” have held particular interest in 2010 with the completion of the 2010 U.S. Census that will determine states gaining or losing Congressional House seats and state voting redistricting. There are 15 ballot measures in this category up from 9 in 2008 on 10 state ballots – CA, FL, IL, KS, MO, NC, NM, OK, UT, and VT. Three states have measures regarding redistricting – CA, FL, and OK.

Illustrating voter sentiment in 2010 with career politicians, NM and OK have ballot measures that propose term limits. Innovative again with Proposition 14 that already passed on June 8, CA will have the top 2 primary election vote getters move to the general election whatever the party affiliation.

While voters in liberal cities San Francisco and Portland, ME will determine if non-U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in local elections, 3 statewide ballot measures seem to be tightening up on eligible voter determination. Amendment 3 in NM proposes to adopt federal requirements to vote, subject to state registration and resident requirements. Oklahoma’s Question 746 proposes voters must provide proof of photo identity to vote. And, Amendment B in UT would amend and clarify legislative residency requirements. There are currently 22 states that have voter identification requirements.

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