Republicans, in the wake of their large gains in last night’s elections, are claiming that the result was a referendum on government tax policy and a clear indication that Americans want less government spending. “If there is a verdict in this election it’s that we shouldn’t raise taxes,” said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who won his state’s open Senate seat. “Instead, we should cut spending.”
However, looking at the tax and spending ballot initiatives in various states, the message is not so clear. While some anti-tax provisions were approved, others were resoundingly defeated. “Voters are not willing to go so far as to start to disassemble state government,” said Jennie Bowser of the Natoional Conference of State Legislatures. “They recognized there are programs and services they benefit from and they want them to continue.” Here is a rundown of the top anti-tax and spending initiatives that were on the ballot. First, the good news:
– Colorado’s ‘Ugly 3′ Overwhelmingly Defeated: Colorado’s three anti- tax initiatives — Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 — were all soundly defeated, with ‘no’s’ garnering around 70 percent for each. The measures would have cut property taxes and automobile registration fees and prevented the state government from borrowing.
– Massachusetts Sales Tax Cut Defeated: The Bay State’s voters defeated a measure that would have cut the state sales tax in half — costing $2 billion in revenue — 53-47 percent.
– California Budget Reform Approved: California approved a measure — Proposition 25 — allowing the state’s budget to be passed by a majority vote of the legislature, instead of only a two-thirds vote.
But on the flip-side:
– Indiana Property Tax Cap Approved: Indiana voters institutionalized in their state Constitution a regressive property tax cap that will give a tax break to the wealthiest homeowners but do little for everyone else. The measure had the staunch support of Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN).
– Washington State Income Tax For High Earners Defeated: Voters in Washington state defeated a measure that would have implemented an income tax on those making more than $200,000 per year, with the funding dedicated to education, by a 65-35 percent margin.
– California Fee Amendment Approved: A measure requiring that a two-thirds majority of the legislature approve fee increases was approved by Golden State voters.
The mixed bag of results when it came to these ballot questions shows that a simple “anti-tax and spending” narrative for the election doesn’t hold much water. As the New York Times’ David Leonhardt put it, “in yesterday’s ballot initiatives on taxes, voters mostly chose the status quo, rejecting measures that would have raised new taxes but also those that would have repealed existing ones.”