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Despite Opting for "Change," Voters Proved Cautious on Fiscal Issues, Taxpayer Group's Analysis Finds
For Immediate Release November 7, 2008
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) -- Spin-meisters of both parties are already arguing about what kind of "change" Americans voted for on Tuesday, but according to a post-election analysis from the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), voters often chose prudent stability -- not radical change - when it came to matters affecting their pocketbooks.
"Security was a big issue in this election, but for millions of voters it was security of a different kind - financial security," said NTU Vice President for Policy and Communications Pete Sepp. "In many ballot measure contests, Americans rejected higher taxes, opted to keep existing tax limits in place, and imposed accountability measures on elected officials. Furthermore, in Congressional races there may be less evidence of a stampede toward bigger government than many pundits would have us believe."
To illustrate Sepp's latter contention, NTU reviewed data from its annual Rating of Congress, a scorecard of Senators and Representatives based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy (the most recent Rating, for 2007, utilized 609 votes). The 12 Republican incumbent House Members who have lost their seats scored an average of 64 percent on last year's Rating, five points below the overall GOP average for the House. The theoretical median score for the 12 losers was 65 percent, ten points below the overall GOP median for the House. Depending upon the final outcome of several Senate contests, this trend could hold for the upper chamber of Congress as well.
"Statistics can lead to many conclusions, but this data seems to fit with at least one outcome from the election," Sepp observed. "House Republicans who thought they could save their seats by keeping a distance from fiscally conservative principles were generally not rewarded at the polls."
At the state and local level, election results likewise revealed no sudden enthusiasm for a new wave of tax-and-spend policies. Measures to abolish the income tax in Massachusetts and reduce income tax rates in North Dakota were soundly defeated, but in Colorado voters upheld the strictest tax and expenditure limit in the country. Known as the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), the law holds the growth of taxes and spending to the annual change in inflation and population, refunds excesses to taxpayers, and requires voter approval for higher taxes. NTU and its allies faced at least a 20 to 1 funding disadvantage against teacher unions and several business interests who backed a measure to gut TABOR, but prevailed when voters rejected the harmful changes to TABOR by a 55 percent-45 percent margin. Among other important outcomes:
"It's been said that the 2008 election will prove transformational in our history, but whatever happens next, voters have still brought a solid piece of the past with them," Sepp concluded. "Americans' traditional concern over how much money government should be able to take from their wallets is alive and kicking at the polls, and will remain so in future elections."
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials. Note: To view additional analyses of candidates and ballot measures, visit www.ntu.org.