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Voters Opted for Limited Government, Survey of Ballot Measure Election Results Shows

by Pete Sepp, Rachael Slobodien / /

     (Alexandria, VA) – As pundits argued over the“meaning” of yesterday’s Congressional elections, an overview of state-levelballot measure contests from the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU)identified several clear trends: voters generally rejected tax increases, oftenembraced tax limits, and overwhelmingly approved government accountabilitymeasures across the U.S. In October, NTU compiled its2010 General Election Ballot Guide:The Taxpayer’s Perspective, which examinedhundreds of ballot questions.

     “Ifone word could sum up voters’ decisions on fiscal-policy issues in the 2010election, more often than not it would be, ‘enough,’” NTU State GovernmentAffairs Manager John Stephenson said. “Most taxpayers cast their ballots totell government it already has enough tax, spending, and regulatory power …and, in many cases, too much.” Election highlights include:

  • Washingtonvoters trounced (2 to 1) an attempt to levy a statewide income tax, initiallylimited to upper-income residents. They also easily approved a rollback of taxhikes on soda, bottled water, and candy. And for good measure, by a 2 to 1margin they reaffirmed a law requiring a legislative “supermajority” or voterconsent for tax hikes.
  • Missouriansheavily backed (68 percent-32 percent) a proposal to prevent localities fromimposing additional taxes on earnings, while requiring referendums on thoselevies where they currently exist.
  • InColorado, three measures to cut several taxes, restore certain tax protections,and restrict government debt all failed. However, in states traditionallyregarded as more liberal, voters often split the differences. Californiansdecided to move ahead with a “cap-and-trade” emission-regulation scheme as wellas relax rules regarding the passage of state budgets. On the other hand, theygave the green light to scheduled reductions in business taxes, andstrengthened a legislative supermajority safeguard against tax increases byextending it to many types of fees. Massachusetts residents turned down thechance to reduce the state’s sales tax by more than half, but they did agree toa plan that will ease the state’s taxes on alcoholic beverages.
  • Advisorymeasures on federal policies fared well. By a huge 3 to 1 margin, Floridianscalled for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring the federalgovernment to balance its budget without raising taxes. Arizona and Oklahomavoters gave the nod to “health care choice” referendums opposing the newfederal law (though Coloradans rejected such a proposal). Propositionsupholding secret ballots for union organizing (and therefore opposing federal“card check” legislation) passed in each state where they appeared: Arizona,South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.
  • Measures in several states made major changes to their budget structures. Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia, will be required to beef up their “rainy day fund” reserves. A Louisiana amendment will henceforth require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to authorize any new public employee benefit that would increase taxpayer liabilities, and voters in numerous Wisconsin counties advised the state to stop siphoning off transportation tax collections to unrelated programs or purposes. In Illinois, citizens likewise approved many local referendums, in this case calling on the state to implement cost-conscious reforms to public safety employee pensions.
    • Propertytaxes figured prominently in many areas. Although Louisianans decided against newrestrictions on non-elected local governments’ taxing powers, Indianans adoptedconstitutional caps on property levies. Missourians banned real estate transfertaxes entirely, while Montanans prohibited the imposition of new ones. Manystates, such as Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia, approved small measures fortargeted property tax relief.
    • Political ethics issues won passage on many election slates, including a recall mechanism for the Governor (Illinois), a 20-year ban on holding office for certain convicted felons (Michigan), and a ban on state elected officials raising their own pay during a current term of office (Louisiana). The movement to limit terms of office for elected officials once again demonstrated its durability in places like Oklahoma and New Mexico, where measures to establish or strengthen them tended to succeed and plans to weaken them tended to fail.

           “Thoseleft wondering about the overall message from yesterday’s election can findmany clues by reading a bit further down the statewide ballots, away from themen and women who were candidates and toward the measures put before voters,”Stephenson concluded. “There they will find that in numerous places and cases,taxpayers resisted bigger government and even welcomed the chance to limit itsreach.”

      The362,000-member NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 towork for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom. Note:2010General Election Ballot Guide: The Taxpayer’s Perspectiveis available online at www.ntu.org; a more complete analysis of the results on measures contained in theguide will be published shortly.