The Tuesday Count: Two governors, two separate tax increase proposals

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December 6, 2011

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Edited by Al Ortiz

While the 2012 ballot measure count remained unchanged this week following the last report's increase, the issue of taxes has started to take over news developments across the country.

Washington lawmakers are currently considering a 2012 measure that would implement a temporary, half-cent sales tax increase in the state. It is estimated that it would raise $500 million a year, which would be used to restore cuts made in the proposed budget; including K-12, higher education, health care, prisons, and social programs.[1]

The temporary tax increase is being proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in efforts to close the $2 billion budget shortfall. According to news reports, the governor is aiming for a March 13, 2012 special election date. This would require a decision by the legislature by December 30, 2011.

A sales tax increase, based on the state's history, is a rare occurrence. If approved, the sales tax increase would mark the first sales tax increase in the State of Washington in 28 years. Additionally, Washington would be tied with five other states for the second-highest state sales tax (7 percent) according to the Washington Department of Revenue.

In efforts similar to that of his Washington counterpart, California Governor Jerry Brown is also planning to introduce a tax hike, but not with the state legislature. Instead, Brown has stated his intentions to propose the measure via the state citizens' initiative process.

Brown's proposal, revealed on December 4, would raise income taxes by 1% to 2% for state residents who make $250,000 or more, as well as increase the state sales tax by a half-cent for the next five years. The intentions behind Brown's proposal are to use the generated revenue to fund public education and assist local prisons in housing more inmates.[2]

The initiative has not yet been filed with the California Attorney General.

Last week, it was reported that the first Massachusetts filing deadline passed on November 23, marking the first encounter of many obstacles supporters face in the state's initiative process. Although it was initially reported by state newspapers that three measures were planning to file signatures, the final outcome revealed that four proposals submitted signatures to local registrars that day.

The four measures include the "death with dignity" initiative, the proposal to require car manufacturers to give non-proprietary diagnostic directly to consumers to repair their cars, the initiative to create a new teacher evaluation process and the medical marijuana initiative.

The initiative process in the state of Massachusetts is among the most complicated in the country, leaving only a handful in recent years to go through the entire process. Read more about this process here.

Staying in New England, a proposal in the Maine Legislature concerning voter identification is now beginning to turn heads among state lawmaking officials. The measure would mandate that identification be shown before residents vote in an election. The bill was introduced in the state legislature during the 2011 state legislative session, and was carried over to the 2012 state legislative session. The bill's formal title is LD 199.

The measure is similar to the November 2011 voter-approved Mississippi Initiative 27. That measure passed with 62% of the vote.

Proposals with recent activity

Quick hits

  • Michigan up in smoke: A local 2011 marijuana measure in the city of Kalamazoo may spur a similar statewide ballot measure in 2012. A Kalamazoo attorney who helped write the local ballot measure stated that the success of the proposal could lead to more initiatives at a state level.[3]
  • New Minnesota marriage poll: A new poll conducted in early November shows a tighter race between supporters and opponents of the 2012 same-gender marriage proposal in the state. See results of the poll here.
  • Gambling that doesn't sleep? A new gambling amendment has been proposed in the state of New York by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The measure would be placed on the 2013 state ballot, and would propose allowing casino gambling statewide.
  • Initiative filings climbing: As of December 1, there have been a total of 388 initiatives filed for the 2012 ballot across the country. This is 40 initiatives more than the last time Ballotpedia counted the number of filings.


SPOTLIGHT:Two November Boulder measures totaled $1 million in campaign contributions
On November 1, residents in the city of Boulder voted whether or not the city should create its own utility company as well as increase the current electricity rate in order to pay for that proposed utility. Both measures were approved by voters, allowing the city to move ahead with its plans. Final finance reports, which election law requires to be filed 30 days after the vote, show that a total of $1,073,828 was spent both in favor and against the two measures. Xcel Energy, the energy provider for the city, spent a total of $960,689 in opposition to municipalization of energy by the city, while other opponents added $6,379 to the campaign. Opponents spent far more than proponents of the measure, with just $106,760 spent to promote the two measures. A spokesman for Xcel Energy issued a statement that they did not see their money as wasted, even though they ultimately lost, and that the close election results show there was not a strong feeling for the two measures. Proponents stated that while they were outspent they were still able to reach residents at the community level and got their message across without the large budget. The County Clerk noted that this election was the most expensive in Boulder's history, but that with those two measures, it was a surprise that the totals were not higher.[4]

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From 2004 through 2010, over $1.8 billion was donated to the 84 ballot propositions on the California ballot.
Click to find out!

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Washington State Liquor Privatization: Two labor unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsters, are challenging Washington's recently passed liquor privatization initiative. Beside privatizing liquor sales, the unions note that the measure also changes regulations on wine distribution, liquor franchises, and alcohol advertising. This, they argue, violates the state's single-subject rule. They also argue that these changes were designed to benefit the chief backer of the measure, Costco. About 1,000 union workers are expected to lose their current jobs under the plan.[5]

  • The press release for the lawsuit can be found here.

Oregon Pension Ruling Lawsuit: An Oregon attorney, Daniel C. Re, is challenging two State Supreme Court rulings on state pensions. One of the rulings threw out a 1994 initiative that put limits on public pensions. The second held that state lawmakers may not cut benefits already promised to state employees. Re contends that, as future pension recipients, the Supreme Court justices have an unacceptable conflict of interest. Although nearly all justices are required to participate in the plan, judges who begin their career after the age of 70 are not required to join. Although court originally decided to hear the case out necessity, Re argues that older judges should have been appointed.[6]

A new update will be released tomorrow. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2012 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2012 Scorecard