Limited Government Often Prevailed at Polls, Study of 2011 Ballot Measures Shows

The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has released a detailed summary of all key 2011 ballot election results affecting taxpayers in NTU’s “Issue Brief 182: How Taxpayers Fared at
the Ballot Box.”
NTU identified 24 statewide measures and over 800 local ballot initiatives up for a vote that would impact taxpayers. Now, the all the results are in and NTU has the details taxpayers need to know.

Voters approved 60 percent of statewide measures that would limit or reduce the burden of government. Citizens also backed 44 percent of measures to expand the burden of government. Most notable among both categories were a major victory in Colorado, where a $532 million tax hike fell by a 2-1 margin, and defeat of Issue 2 in Ohio, which would have reduced government employee costs. But other, lesser known contests – such as enactment of a ban in Louisiana on real estate transfer taxes – deserve attention as well.

But tax increases are not the only weapon in the arsenal of those who seek larger government. NTU tracks bonding measures, which allow states and localities to continue to rack up debt. Two of three statewide bonding measures this year, all in Texas, managed to pass.

The analysis also focused on non-tax, non-bond measures that nonetheless had a fiscal impact. Among these were passage in Ohio of a referendum against the individual mandate in the 2010 federal health care law and privatization of Washington State’s government-run liquor store system.

Perhaps the most valuable function of NTU’s post-election analysis, and pre-election Ballot Guide, is the tracking of local ballot measures. With over 800 local measures affecting taxpayers, it is critical that information on their impact is provided to voters. This year, out of 648 measures that would raise taxes and expand budgets, 330 passed and 318 failed. More fortunately for taxpayers, 37 of 46 measures that would limit government or reduce the tax burden passed. The remainder of the 800-plus measures consisted of requests to renew existing tax rates.

“With low voter turnout, and excessive campaign spending by special interests opposed to fiscal responsibility, the fact taxpayers won so many of the votes we tracked is impressive,” said NTU State Government Affairs Manager Brent Mead. “Even in the defeats, citizen activists can learn lessons that will serve them well for 2012’s ballot measure contests.”

Mead concluded: “Taxpayers should be encouraged by the success of taxpayer protection measures, like TABOR, and the opportunity to vote on ballot measures rather than leaving these issues entirely in the hands of politicians. Voters should carefully guard and assert their rights to directly decide how much government they can afford.”

For more information on the 12 states that voted on NTU-tracked ballot measures (Texas, Washington, Colorado, Louisiana, California, Maine, Oregon, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan) read NTU’s Issue Brief 182: How Taxpayers Fared at the Ballot Box on