Government Bytes

Blog 

A Quick Review of State and Local Ballot Issues

by Brent Mead / /

The results are in, and the winner is…well, that is complicated.Voters went to the polls across the country yesterday and NTU tracked theresults of statewide and local ballot measures in 10 states. While the headlinesare focused on the defeat of Issue 2 in Ohio, there were more positives thannegatives, and the 2011 elections on the balance show a continued voterpreference for lower taxes and less government.

All the results from last night should also be colored bythe enormity of the victory in Colorado last week. Proposition 103 in Coloradowas the only statewide tax increase in the country and it went down by a 2-1margin. The policy choices expressed by voters last night do not necessarilyreflect a tax preference. That preference is still very much clear by lookingat the number of local tax hikes which went down in defeat.

In Ohio, Issue 2, the repeal referendum on the state’scollective bargaining reform law, went down handily. However, those samevoters were even stronger in their antipathy for President Obama’s health carelaw, voting to protect health care freedom of choice by a 65%-35% margin. Theearly message from big government apologists seems to be that this votewas only symbolic. However, even as a symbol it shows continued strong disapproval of the federal health care law. When coupled with similar actions by states such as Missouri shows that federal overreach will continue to be an issue for voters going into 2012.

Additionally, a majority of the local tax and bondingmeasures went down in defeat. Thus, while voters said no to the state’scollective bargaining reform efforts, they sent an even stronger message thatthe solution to Ohio’s budget woes will not be found in tax hikes andgovernment mandates.

Another potential harbinger of things to come can be foundin California. San Francisco residents voted for Proposition C, which wouldsave the city over $1 billion in public employee pension costs. While votersrejected a more expansive proposal, Prop C shows a basic recognition by eventhe most liberal of cities that pension costs are quickly reachingunsustainable levels and reform, not higher taxes, are the answer. On the taxfront, Bay Area residents also rejected a .5% sales tax increase to pay forpublic safety programs.

Washington State also provided a solid win for taxpayers.Voters approved I-1183 to privatize state liquor stores and sell off therelated assets. In the process, I-1183 became the most expensive ballot campaignin the state’s history. They also voted to strengthen the budget stabilizationfund. However, I-1125, which would ensure transportation revenue goes totransportation needs only, was narrowly defeated 49%-50%.

On the local level, results were also mixed. For instance, residentsin Seattle approved a $32 million property tax increase, but rejected a $20million vehicle fee increase. In San Juan County, voters narrowly decided toextend the real estate excise tax and decisively shot down a new solid wastedisposal user fee.

While NTU is still in the process of compiling the resultsof the hundreds of elections last night a couple basic trends can be found. Votersdid express a willingness to raise taxes if the measure delineated what thefunds would be used for and was for a set period of time. However, overall, farmore tax increases were defeated than passed. I think the big story is that despitethe spin over Ohio's Issue 2 from proponents of big government, voters were inno mood to write blank checks to big-spending public officials.