Ballot Initiatives in the States: The Bad News

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Voters this November in a variety of states may have the opportunity to vote against anti-tax initiatives, as well. Right-wing activists were successful recently in gathering signatures for a handful of misguided anti-tax initiatives in Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington.  

Colorado voters are going to have a congested ballot come November. Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 have all qualified for the ballot and would have an enormous impact on Coloradans' way of life. About these three proposals the Denver Post opines, "The operating language within each one is a virus that would cripple the ability of our local and state governments to provide the most basic of services — from building schools for our children to supplying clean water to our homes. Both Democratic and Republican politicians have joined leaders in business and community organizations to oppose the initiatives."

According to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center: "Amendment 60 would overturn voters' decision to opt out of Colorado's TABOR limitations. The initiative also cuts property tax rates in half over a ten-year period. The statutory Proposition 101 would slash state and local revenues to the tune of $1.7 billion by reducing the state income tax, motor vehicle fees, and telecommunications fees." Amendment 61 would prohibit all levels and divisions of government from bonding, even if they previously had the authority to do so. These measures would have a disastrous impact on Coloradans' way of life.

The Boston Herald is reporting that an initiative proposing to reduce the Massachusetts sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent is likely headed to the November ballot. The proposal would cost the state a jaw-dropping $2.4 billion annually. Proponents of the legislation delivered more than the required 11,099 signatures to the Secretary of State's office Wednesday. In somewhat brighter news, none of the four candidates for governor appear to support the initiative and have said that if it passes, deep cuts in state and local services would be all but guaranteed. Despite the regressive nature of the sales tax, it's important because slashing it would cripple Massachusetts' ability to provide for its residents.

Another initiative that reportedly has enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, backed by beer and wine wholesalers, would eliminate the new sales tax on alcohol.  Last year, state lawmakers removed the sales tax exemption on beer, wine and liquor and added them to the state’s sales tax base in order to raise $80 million for substance abuse programs.

Tim Eyman, Washington state's notorious anti-tax crusader, is up to his old, tired tricks again. Initiative 1053 would permanently re-establish the requirement for a two-thirds supermajority vote in the Legislature or a statewide popular vote in order to pass tax increases.  A similar measure won at the ballot in 2007, but that measure allowed the legislature to repeal the rules by a simple majority vote after two years.  Facing a $2.8 billion budget gap this year, Washington legislators suspended the requirement in February for 16 months to pass tax increases to mitigate cuts to vital state services.  If passed this initiative impairs the ability of Legislators to do what they were elected to do — legislate.

Eyman is also supportive of Initiative 1107, which would roll back the new state taxes on a variety of goods including soda, bottled water, and candy. (Advocates of both initiatives turned in over 700,000 signatures to see that these issues will be placed before the voters in November.) Of course sales taxes are regressive, but the cost of removing the sales tax from these items is pretty stark. According to the Children's Action Alliance, "The choice for us is clear, a few extra pennies or the loss of essential services for kids."

Not surprisingly, the main financial backer of Initiative 1107 is the American Beverage Association, which has reportedly spent more than $1 million on the ballot effort thus far.

Washington recently joined with 30 other states to tax candy. If you want to see how your state taxes candy, see Washington State Budget and Policy Center's handy map on the subject.

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