State and Local Ballot Initiative Round-Up

November 7, 2008

democracy in action

The following is a quick review of selected important ballot initiatives pertaining to state and local economic development from around the country:

In Massachusetts, ballot

Question 1

proposed a total elimination of the state’s personal income tax beginning in January 2010.

Massachusetts state income tax provides $12 billion in annual revenues (

40% of the state’s budget

), and its elimination would have decimated funding for public education, public safety personnel, crucial infrastructure repairs, and health care for low and fixed income residents.



by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation stated that passage of the initiative would have required the state to slash 70% of most state agencies’ operating budgets.

The measure was

decisively defeated

with 70% of voters in opposition and just 30% supporting.

Oregonians defeated

Measure 59

, intended to create an unlimited state income tax deduction for federal income taxes on residents’ individual income-tax returns.

The initiative would have reduced Oregon’s tax revenues by $1.3 billion in 2011, with increasing reductions in the future.

Defend Oregon

, the measure’s primary opposition organization, estimated that 75% of Oregon residents would have seen state income tax reductions of

less than a dollar

, while the wealthiest 1% of Oregonians would have seen the greatest benefits.

Measure 59 was defeated 63% to 37%.

In North Dakota,

Measure 2

proposed a 15% reduction in corporate income tax and up to 50% rate reductions in most individual income tax brackets.

North Dakota already has the lowest individual income tax in the nation (of the states that tax personal income), and the measure would have provided

less than one dollar

of tax relief for families earning less than $25,000 a year.

North Dakotans voted Measure 2 down by 70% to 30%.

Labor won two major victories in Colorado with the defeat of two ballot initiatives.


Amendment 47

, the “Colorado Right to Work Initiative,” which would have prohibited unions and employers from negotiating union shop contracts under which employees are required to pay union membership or agency fees as a condition of continued employment.

The second measure, Constitutional

Amendment 49

, “

Limitation on Public Payroll Deductions,”

was created to prevent automatic deductions of union dues (dues check off) from public employees’ paychecks.

The amendment would have accomplished this by prohibiting all public payroll deductions directed to private organizations.

A local ballot initiative whose defeat we’re disappointed to report is Austin, Texas’s Proposition 2, known as

Stop Domain Subsidies


The charter amendment proposed first that Austin halt its payment of a $63 million subsidy to a luxury shopping mall developed in north Austin, and second, that the city outlaw the provision of subsidies to all new retail development.

The charter amendment was widely supported by small and local businesses, which more often than not are harmed by new subsidized retail development.

Proposition 2 lost by a

narrow 4%

margin—48% to 52%.

Have other local results to report?

Please let us know in the comments section.