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Press Release

Fiscal-Issue Ballot Measures Often – But Not Always – Followed National Election Trends, Study Finds

For Immediate Release November 10, 2010

     (Alexandria, VA) – The votes have been counted and results interpreted for most of last week’s Congressional contests, but what did the November 2 elections mean for state and local ballot measures affecting fiscal policy? A detailed analysis from the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) released today has some answers.

     “While much attention has focused on a ‘national wave’ that swept dozens of fiscal conservatives into Congress, that wave could also be seen in varying degrees at the state and local level,” said Joseph E. Moser, a Policy Analyst with NTU’s research arm. Findings include:

  • This year voters decided on 43 measures that had a potential impact on tax burdens. Taxpayers voted in support of limited government on 30 of them (roughly 70 percent). Highlights included passage of new safeguards against tax increases (Washington), fee increases (California), and imposition of new local earnings taxes (Missouri). Washington voters also soundly rejected imposition of a state-level income tax.
  • NTU identified 30 government reform measures that could have a fiscal effect, ranging from expansions of rainy day funds to privatization initiatives. Voters supported limited government in 17 instances (about 57 percent).
  • Thirteen bonding measures appeared on statewide ballots, with all but one approved.
  • Citizens confronted seven measures in six states that were a direct reaction to developments in the United States Congress. In two of the three states that voted on it, voters decisively resisted the concept of an “individual mandate” to purchase health insurance. Four states also opted to guarantee the right to a secret ballot in union organizing elections, in response to federal “card check” legislation.
  • Compared to previous NTU ballot measure analyses, the 2010 approval rate for measures to limit government (taxes, spending, accountability, etc.) was higher than 2008’s and roughly comparable to those in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

     “Ballot measure contests in other years may have recorded bigger waves of victories for taxpayer activists,” Moser concluded. “Still, 2010 represented a palpable change in fiscal tide, one that empowered tens of millions of Americans to decide for themselves just what government should (and shouldn’t) do.”

     The 362,000-member NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom. Note: NTU Issue Brief 181, Election 2010 Results: How Taxpayers Fared at the Ballot Box, is available at