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2012 General Election Ballot Guide: Introduction
On November 6, voters from all across the country will head to the ballot box to elect a President and determine which party will control the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In many states, citizens will elect governors, state legislators, and countless local officials. Though these elections often dominate the news headlines, voters should also pay close attention to the various measures that will appear on their ballots. NTU’s ballot guide contains approximately 750 propositions, initiatives, referenda, proposals, and constitutional amendments from 35 states. These measures could have an enormous impact on government growth, economic vitality, and job creation — not to mention taxpayers’ wallets.
Due to the continued economic slump and, in some cases, poor fiscal policies, many state governments are experiencing budget problems and ballot measures could determine how these issues are resolved.
In California, for instance, voters will decide the fate of two massive tax increase proposals, both of which are designed to reduce the budget deficit, but could also negatively impact the state’s economy and stymie job creation.
By contrast, in Michigan, which has also experienced fiscal problems, voters could pass a measure to limit the ability of lawmakers to raise taxes. Proposal 5 would require that any future tax hike gains the approval of 2/3 of the legislature or voters. In conjunction with other mechanisms to limit tax increases in the state, this could pressure elected officials to close budget gaps with spending cuts instead of tax increases.
A proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution seeks to guarantee that its budget remains solvent for the long-term. The Florida State Revenue Limitation Amendment would restrain the size of government by basing the State’s tax take on the growth of population and inflation.
Through the initiative and referendum process, voters in some states will even weigh in on national issues. For example, in Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming citizens will decide on measures that would reject the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which was a key component of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Another part of the health care law — government-run health insurance exchanges — will be put to the test in Missouri, where voters can prohibit the State from creating and operating an exchange.
Many local governments are required to gain the approval of voters before raising taxes or issuing debt. Hundreds of such measures are included in this guide. However, due to the large number of local ballot questions in Ohio, local measures from the Buckeye State will instead be listed online at NTU.org.
While we strove to make this a comprehensive guide to measures dealing with fiscal policy, many local measures were omitted because suf- ficient information to merit inclusion was not available. Also, measures concerning social issues, such as gambling, same-sex marriage, or drug policy, are omitted unless there is an imme- diate and direct impact on state budgets or taxes. Also excluded from this guide are measures dealing with home rule, the timing of elec- tions, and other measures involving the function of government when there is no clear impact on taxpayers. Measures imposing term limits on elected officials, easing the ability of citizens to utilize the ballot initiative process, or increasing government transparency are included because of their positive impact on limiting the size of government and empowering citizens.
Finally, although NTU’s research team made every effort to identify measures of importance to taxpayers throughout the country, it is impossible to ensure that every jurisdiction’s election slate is completely reported on here. In some cases, election authorities may have made late decisions concerning their ballots that could not be reflected in this guide. For all of these reasons, taxpayers are urged to check with their local election agency for additional information.