2016 Ballot Initiatives: Largely Positive Results for Taxpayers

While the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump garnered much of the media’s attention, taxpayers scored some significant victories on consequential ballot measures decided at the state and local level, with some notable exceptions.

Earlier this fall, National Taxpayers Union issued its 2016 Ballot Guide, which detailed 74 consequential state and local fiscal policy ballot questions. Below you will find a brief recap of how some of the major initiatives fared on Tuesday.

Income Taxes

In California, by a 62 percent to 38 percent margin, voters approved Proposition 55, which extended by 12 years, temporary income tax increases for their top tax bracket.

In Maine, a bare majority supported Question 2 – increasing the top marginal tax rate by three percent – from 7.15 to 10.15 percent – on income above $200,000. Given the narrow margin, a recount has been ordered. 

Tobacco and Soda Taxes

In California, by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin, voters supported Proposition 56, which will raise cigarette taxes $2 per pack – from $0.87 per pack to $2.87.

In Colorado, voters rejected Amendment 72 by a 12 percent margin, which would have raised cigarette taxes from $0.84 per pack to $2.59 per pack.

Voters in Missouri rejected two cigarette tax increases (Proposition A and Amendment 3) by a 45-55 margin and 40-60 margin, respectively.

North Dakota voters soundly defeated Measure 4 by a 38-62 margin. If enacted, Measure 4 would have drastically increased cigarette taxes from$0.44 per pack to $2.20 per pack.

By a 62 to 38 percent margin, voters in Oakland supported Measure HH, which will institute a one cent per ounce excise tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Across the bay, by a similar margin, voters in San Francisco backed a one cent per ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Voters in Boulder, Colorado, supported Measure 2H by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. Measure 2H will institute a two cents per ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Other Tax Issues

By an 18 point margin, voters in Oregon rejected Measure 97, which would have imposed a very high gross receipts tax on business earnings over $25 million.

In Oklahoma, voters rejected Question 779 by nearly 20 points. If enacted, Question 779 would have increased the state’s sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

By a 16 point margin, voters in Washington rejected Initiative 732, which would have implemented a carbon tax offset by a reduction in other taxes, including sales and business taxes.

Health Care

In a stunning defeat, voters in California rejected Proposition 61 by an 8 point margin. If enacted, Proposition 61 would have essentially implemented price controls on pharmaceuticals by prohibiting the state from paying more for any prescription drug than the highest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Voters in Colorado wisely rejected Amendment 69 by a 60 point margin. Amendment 69 would have doubled the size of the state budget and drastically raised taxes on virtually all forms of income in order to create essentially a single-payer healthcare system in the state.