America's independent, non-partisan advocate for overburdened taxpayers.

2011 General Election Ballot Guide

     Though odd-year elections do not receive the attention and pageantry of Congressional or Presidential contests, the issues facing voters on Fall 2011 election slates are no less important. Citizens will control the fate of billions of dollars in fiscal policy as they enter voting booths a few weeks from now. Through the Initiative and Referendum (I&R) process, many important issues will be decided directly by voters at the ballot box. This is a guide to 25 statewide ballot questions and more than 800 county, city, and local measures in 12 states that NTU has identified as potentially having a significant impact on taxpayers.

     Among the more sweeping statewide examples is Colorado’s Proposition 103, which would raise taxes by $532 million per year. Corporate income tax and personal income tax rates would increase from 4.63 percent to 5 percent and the state sales tax rate would increase from 2.9 percent to 3 percent. Proposition 103 designates all new revenue to be spent on increasing education spending. As a whole, this is one of the most far-reaching attempts to override the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, a package of citizen-initiated constitutional restrictions on government spending enacted in 1992.

     In Ohio, residents will vote on a referendum on Senate Bill 5 passed by the State Legislature. Senate Bill 5 would overhaul government union employment procedures, especially those relating to collective bargaining. The state will have a freer hand to negotiate more manageable salaries and benefits for state workers, which will save money for the taxpayers who foot the bill.

     While statewide measures are enormously important, we also sought to include information down to the most local of levels. Questions involving millions of voters in states across the country are covered, but so is one affecting considerably fewer residents in the Rucker Transportation District in Cochise County, Arizona.

     Meanwhile, the residents of traditionally “blue” states like California will be given opportunities to reduce their burdens. San Francisco voters will decide on two major pension reform measures. Last year, the city paid $357 million in pension benefits, a number that will increase to over $600 million within just four years. One of the reform efforts, Proposition D, seeks simple, basic adjustments like ending pension “spiking” and capping the maximum annual pension at $140,000 per year. Combined with changes in contribution rates, the initiative could save Bay Area taxpayers $1.8 billion over the next ten years.

     The severe deficit problems faced by states and localities in recent years certainly haven’t diminished the lure of borrowing. Hundreds of bond issuance questions appear on election slates in virtually every state covered in this guide. These efforts would borrow money for purposes ranging from sewer infrastructure to the purchase of land to prevent development.

     This guide covers a number of other important, but perhaps unconventional, issues that nonetheless affect taxpayers. For instance, it includes Ohio’s effort to counteract the “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance that was included in the federal health care reform bill that passed in 2010. It also highlights Washington State’s Initiative 1183, an attempt to get government out of the alcohol business by privatizing state liquor stores and selling all related assets. 

     While we strove to be as comprehensive as possible, there are some local issues for which we were not able to obtain enough information to merit inclusion. In addition, we omitted numerous ballot measures reflecting social and political concerns that are not within NTU’s mission. Also not reported here are measures where the fiscal outcome is mixed or unclear. Examples include measures to increase local officials’ accountability while raising their pay, and electricity aggregation programs.

     We hope this will serve as a useful informational resource for taxpayers as election season approaches.

Guide Key:

The various measures, propositions, initiatives, referenda, proposals, and amendments are listed by state with subheadings for statewide, countywide, and local issues.

Measures that could lower taxes or control government are listed with a positive sign ( + ), and measures that could raise taxes or expand government are listed with a negative sign ( – ). Measures that simply extend current taxes without increasing burdens are listed without such a marking.

This guide is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to provide endorsements or recommendations to voters.