Bloomberg News

U.S. Voters Will Weigh Ballots Focused on Budgets, Higher Taxes

October 11, 2011

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Increasing taxes in Colorado, boosting rainy-day funds in Washington and reducing unfunded pension liabilities in Louisiana top a list of ballot measures in nine states this month and next.

Fiscal issues are the theme of the 34 proposals, said Jennie Bowser, a senior fellow specializing in elections at the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures.

“The states continue to be concerned with, and to struggle with, budgets and funding ongoing services,” Bowser said in a telephone interview.

The worst recession since the Great Depression continues to weigh on U.S. state budgets. Eleven states forecast deficits in fiscal 2013 totaling $15.9 billion, according to a report released by the NCSL last month.

“As usual for an odd-numbered year, the overall number of propositions is well below the previous year,” according to a report by the Los Angeles-based Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. Last year, there were 159 propositions in 36 states, the institute said.

Voters will consider 27 measures in seven states on Nov. 8. Louisiana voters will weigh six initiatives in an Oct. 22 primary and Nov. 19 general election.

Colorado Taxes

In Colorado, which will hold its general election on Nov. 1, voters will weigh a proposal to increase the state income tax to 5 percent from 4.6 percent and the state sales and use tax to 3 percent from 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Arkansas voters will consider whether to approve a $575 million bond program for highways.

In Louisiana, voters will consider a measure to use 5 percent of non-recurring revenue toward balancing the unfunded liability for the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems in fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

New Jersey voters will consider whether to allow the Legislature to legalize betting on sporting events at casinos in Atlantic City, racetracks and former racetrack sites. Federal law only allows this betting in Nevada and Delaware.

In Washington, where the state sells and controls the distribution and sale of liquor, voters will decide whether to close state-run liquor stores and license private parties to sell and distribute spirits.

‘Extraordinary Revenue’

Another Washington ballot measure would require the Legislature to transfer additional funds to the budget stabilization account in each fiscal two-year budget cycle in which the state has received “extraordinary revenue growth.”

In Ohio, voters will decide whether to uphold a law limiting collective bargaining for government unions. Opponents say it’s an effort to bust unions and limit their support of Democratic candidates. Governor John Kasich, a Republican, supports the law, saying it would give local governments tools to control costs, prevent dismissals and provide equity with private-industry workers.

The state also will consider a measure that would prevent people from being forced to get health insurance in defiance of President Barack Obama’s health-care law. Mississippi voters will consider a proposed ban on abortions that defines life as beginning at the moment of conception.

--Editors: Pete Young, Jerry Hart

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Vekshin in San Francisco at avekshin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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