Voters Approve Major Pro-Taxpayer Ballot Measures

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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Taxpayer interests prevailed in all of the top five tax-related ballot measures on Tuesday, according to Americans for Tax Reform.

Voters approved constitutional amendments prohibiting income tax hikes in Tennessee and Georgia, defeated a proposed business tax in Nevada and passed measures limiting gas taxes in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. (RELATED: Midterm Ballot Measures Every Voter Needs to Know About)

The most closely contended result was in Massachusetts, where a measure to repeal a 2013 law automatically indexing the state’s gas tax to the rate of inflation was passed by a margin of 53-47.

Opponents of the measure, according to the Massachusetts Secretary of State, framed it as a safety issue, saying, “53 percent of all bridges in the state are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” Passing the measure, they argued, “would make things even worse, by taking away existing gas tax revenues that we need to solve this public safety crisis.”

Supporters, on the other hand, pointed out that indexing the tax to inflation “causes the tax to increase every year without a vote of the Legislature,” which they described as taxation without representation. “If the Legislature wants to increase taxes,” the argument went, “they should have to vote for it.”

Wisconsin voters, in a more lopsided vote of 80-20, approved a requirement that the state’s gas tax only be used to fund transportation projects, which Americans for Tax Reform attributed to widespread disgust over the fact that “Wisconsin’s legislature has raided the state’s transportation fund to the tune of $1.4 billion” over the last 10 years.

By a similar margin of 79-21, Nevada voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed 2 percent “margins tax” on businesses that was intended to supplement public school funding. (RELATED: On the Ballot in 4 States: Raising the Minimum Wage)

Unsurprisingly, business interests were vocally opposed to the tax, saying it “would force employers to eliminate jobs and businesses to pass costs to consumers,” the Las Vegas Sun reports. About $5 million was spent campaigning against the proposed tax, compared to $1.6 million spent on its behalf.

Meanwhile, Tennesseans took a firm stand against state income taxes, voting 66-34 in favor of a constitutional amendment banning their adoption at the state or local level, which some see as a repudiation of past efforts to impose such a tax.

“The last serious attempt to impose a state income tax in Tennessee occurred a dozen years ago,” the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle claims, and resulted in a public backlash that “led several supporters to retire from office or to lose their re-election campaigns.”

Lastly, in Georgia, “voters enshrined in the state constitution a cap on the state income tax at the effective rate on January 1, 2015” by a 74-26 margin, making Georgia “the first state to put a ceiling on its income tax rate,” according to Governing Magazine. (RELATED: Atlanta Voters Head to the Polls)

The amendment caps income taxes at 6 percent, which supporters argued was necessary to make Georgia more competitive relative to its neighbors, especially “Florida, which doesn’t tax income at all; Alabama, which has a 5 percent tax rate; and Tennessee, which only applies its 6 percent tax rate to investment income.”

Opponents warned capping income taxes could impede Georgia’s ability to deal with future revenue shortfalls, forcing legislators to raise sales, property or other taxes instead.

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