Voters agreed to let as many as seven Las Vegas-style casinos open in New York, approved an increase to the minimum wage in New Jersey and set a tax on the legal sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado.
The statewide ballot questions were among 31 decided in six states across the U.S. yesterday. The measures focused on issues related to business, taxes and borrowing, a break from recent years in which social issues such as abortion and gay marriage were put to referendums.
In Colorado, while approving a 25 percent tax on sales of marijuana a year after legalizing the drug, voters rejected an income-tax increase to raise money for schools, just as they did two years ago.
“We are in the midst of a very fragile recovery,” said Kelly Maher, a spokeswoman for Coloradans for Real Education Reform, the campaign opposed to the measure. “It is definitely the wrong time to raise taxes by the highest amounts in the history of the Colorado ballots.”
In New York, voters supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to bring jobs to struggling parts of the state by allowing development of casinos beyond Indian reservations. The decision permits as many as seven, with four in the first seven years, all of them upstate, to draw New York City residents and tourists to the region. It won with 57 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.
“This vote will keep hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year in neighboring states right here in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today’s vote will further pave the way for the creation of new jobs, construction and increased tourism.”
The measure was supported by Kuala Lumpur-based Genting Bhd. (GENT), which would continue to run the only slot machines in New York City for the next several years, at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
At least four casino developers are planning to compete for licenses that will be available in the Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, including Foxwoods Resort Casino, Empire Resorts Inc. (NYNY:US) and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
New York is following states such as Maryland and Pennsylvania in expanding casino gambling to raise money or create jobs.
In other votes:
-- A proposition in Washington state to require labels on genetically modified food was defeated, 54 percent to 46 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The measure was fought by Monsanto Co. (MON:US) and DuPont Co. (DD:US) California voters defeated a similar proposal last year following opposition from food companies.
-- Texas voters allowed the state to put $2 billion of its reserves into a fund to help pay for water projects. Republican Governor Rick Perry endorsed the plan, which will finance reservoirs, distribution systems and other public works to keep pace with the state’s fast-growing population.
-- In 11 Colorado counties, voters cast ballots on resolutions backing secession to create a 51st state, buoyed by anger at political power wielded by urban areas. Creating a new state would require approval from the state legislature and Congress. The resolutions were failing in six counties, including Weld, the most-populous where the question appeared, and passing in five, according to early results from the Secretary of State’s office.
-- Efforts to temporarily halt hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and natural gas, a technique that has raised concerns about groundwater pollution, were also on the ballot in cities in Colorado, where the practice known as fracking has flourished.
In Boulder, a proposed five-year moratorium was leading late yesterday. Measures in two other cities were also passing in early results, while a third was failing by less than two percentage points, according to county election office websites.
-- In Massachusetts, voters knocked down a proposal to build a $1 billion resort-casino at the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, according to the Associated Press.
-- In New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie won a second term, voters bucked his opposition to raising the wages of the state’s lowest-paid workers, supporting a $1-an-hour increase by 61 percent, with all but 1 percent of the precincts reporting, according to the AP.
The measure would lift the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour from $7.25, followed by annual cost-of-living adjustments. Ten other states have minimum wages that increase along with the Consumer Price Index, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Democrats, who control the New Jersey legislature, placed the increase before voters after Christie vetoed it.
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