Voters Send Strong Anti-Tax Message in November Elections

Published January 1, 2008

The November 6 election results show a clear tilt toward limited government, according to an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

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 Pete Sepp, NTU’s vice president for policy and communications. “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.”

Numerous Proposals

Off-year elections tend to have fewer ballot proposals as well as fewer candidates, but NTU 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 vehicles used partly for business purposes.
  • As is often the case, bond issues largely succeeded. Nine 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 put a cigarette hike into the Oregon constitution marks the third instance in two years that citizens rejected higher tobacco levies. In 2006 increases failed in California and Missouri while succeeding in Arizona and South Dakota.

Greater Accountability

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 requiring 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 said. “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,” Sepp noted.

Kristina Rasmussen ([email protected]) is director of government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union, a nonpartisan citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels.

For more information …

National Taxpayer Union’s guide and analysis of 2007 ballot measures: