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Election Was No Blow-Out for Big Government, Taxpayer Group’s Analysis of State Ballot Measures Shows
For Immediate Release November 7, 2012
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) – Despite cautiously O.K.’ing a large tax increase in California and rejecting limits on taxes in some other states, voters across the country were in no mood to give blanket approval for proposals that would take more of their money, according to an analysis of state-level ballot measure election results from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). In states as diverse as Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington, citizens opted to keep taxing and spending levels or powers in check.
“Politicians are loading up their victory and concession speeches with opinions on what happened with the election, but one thing is clear: big government cannot claim a mandate at the ballot box this year,” said NTU Executive Vice President Pete Sepp. “No matter how else the outcome is spun, when voters weighed in on specific fiscal issues, they were reluctant to give government deeper reach into their pockets and lives.”
As in previous elections, NTU compiled the most comprehensive national level guide available on state and local ballot measures pertaining to fiscal policy. NTU’s 2012 General Election Ballot Guide: The Taxpayer’s Perspective, contained approximately 750 propositions, initiatives, referenda, proposals, and constitutional amendments from 35 states and numerous localities.
In many states, NTU found that voter uncertainty over the future of the economy tended to make them cautious about embracing sweeping fiscal changes of any kind. In those where they did approve tax increases, even major ones, they tended to set boundaries on how far they were willing to open their wallets. Although many results remain to be determined, highlights so far from NTU’s post-election overview include:
NTU determined that many issue clusters of interest to taxpaying citizens had a strong showing at the polls. An attempt to undermine term limits and a ploy raise state lawmakers’ pay by 166 percent were thrashed in Nebraska, while Alabamians opted to actually cut their legislators’ salaries. Louisiana voters empowered the Legislature to deny retirement benefits to public employees who commit felonies, and passed a measure increasing the time required before bills involving public employee retirement issues of all kinds are considered. South Dakotans also voted to keep the mileage reimbursement rate for state officials at a low 5 cent-per-mile rate, and, more importantly, created a new constitutional requirement for a balanced budget.
As in the past few elections, state and local ballots sometimes turned their attention to issues related to federal policies. Virginians gave final approval to a state constitutional amendment limiting instances where private property may be taken by eminent domain. This is a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision. Four states – Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming – had referendums on the federal mandate to purchase individual insurance in President Obama’s 2010 health care law. Three of the four – Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming – expressed opposition to the mandate.
Although the NTU analysis on hundreds of local-level ballot measures is still underway, researchers uncovered a few interesting examples among the various extensions and renewals that are often approved with little fanfare. Even though they gave the thumbs-up to a new arts tax, Portland, Oregon residents also enacted cost-saving reforms to local police and firefighter pensions. In St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, a tax on phone lines (which would have cost as much as $2.07 per month per customer) went down to defeat. Nye County, Nevada denizens gave a thumbs-down to a measure that would have raised the local tax on gasoline, and Satellite Beach, Florida taxpayers enacted one of the strongest taxpayer protections in the nation – a requirement that future local tax hikes receive approval by four-fifths of the voters.
“Americans spoke with many voices in the 2012 election, but when it comes to pocketbook issues they voted on directly, their political vocabulary often opposed excessive taxation and spending while calling for moderation,” Sepp concluded. “Fortunately, the ballot measure process will give taxpayers more opportunities to reaffirm, amend, or add to these words in future elections.”