Voters Send Strong Anti-Tax Message in 2007 Election, Analysis of Ballot Measures Shows

(Alexandria, VA) -- The political parties are still analyzing the impact of yesterday's elections on their candidates, but according to a review by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), the results from ballot-measure contests show a clear tilt toward limited government. Tax increases failed in all of the states where fiscal policy issues were considered, while proposals to limit taxes scored victories in places as diverse as Texas and Washington.

"Whether they were asked to pay higher cigarette taxes for children's health programs or higher sales taxes for mass transit, the resounding answer from voters this fall was 'no'," said NTU Vice President for Policy & Communications Pete Sepp. "Tax hikes are rarely popular at the polls, but the electorate often went one step further by telling politicians to put government on a stricter tax-diet in years to come."

Off-year elections tend to have fewer ballot proposals as well as candidates, but NTU's researchers identified 29 measures in seven states that could have an impact on taxpayers (including Louisiana's October 20 election). With one exception (a defeated transit measure in Seattle), localities were not examined. Among the findings:

  • Washingtonians opted to strengthen the state's requirement of a two-thirds legislative "supermajority" or voter approval of higher taxes, and called for the creation of a constitutional rainy day fund. Texans approved four separate measures affecting property taxes, including a limit on homestead assessments and an exemption for a vehicle used partly for business purposes.
  • As is often the case, bond issues largely succeeded; nine out of 10 debt-related measures in three states passed (a stem-cell research plan in New Jersey was the lone failure).
  • The high-profile loss in Utah of school vouchers (which could have generated education budget savings) stands in contrast to the loss for a measure in Washington State that would have made it easier to raise taxes for schools.
  • Tobacco tax increases continue to have less appeal than pundits claim. This year's defeat of a proposal to boost cigarette taxes in Oregon marks the third instance in two years that citizens rejected higher tobacco levies (in 2006, such increases failed in California and Missouri but succeeded in Arizona and South Dakota).
  • Government accountability issues fared well at the polls. Maine residents turned back a scheme to weaken term limits on legislators, while Texans passed a reform that will require many legislative votes to be recorded and posted on the Internet.

"Excluding bond issues, when given the chance to decide statewide fiscal measures, Americans approved tax limits or controls on government 75 percent of the time," Sepp concluded. "Although the 2006 election had a much higher quantity of ballot proposals, the pro-taxpayer tilt among the results was stronger in 2007. Those who are focused only on 2008's Presidential and Congressional races ought to keep an eye on tax and spending ballot measures next year too."

NTU is a non-partisan citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: NTU Issue Brief 166, Election 2007 Results: How Taxpayers Fared at the Ballot Box, is available at