Tagballot measures

Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois decide ballot measures regarding state income taxes

Voters in 12 states voted on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies on Nov. 3. Ten of the measures addressed taxes on properties, three were related to income tax rates, two addressed tobacco taxes, one addressed business-related taxes, one addressed sales tax rates, one addressed fees and surcharges, and one was related to tax-increment financing (TIF).

The three measures concerning state income taxes were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois. Arizona voters approved a measure to add a surtax for income above a certain level to fund education. Colorado voters approved an income tax decrease. Illinois voters defeated a measure to allow for a graduated income tax.

Arizona Proposition 208 was approved by a vote of 51.75% to 48.25%. The measure enacted a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax, on taxable income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). As of 2020, the highest income tax in Arizona was 4.50%, which was levied on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Based on the existing income tax rates, the ballot initiative has the effect of increasing the tax rate from 4.50% to 8.00% on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). The Invest in Education PAC was registered in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC received $21.6 million in contributions. The Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and No on 208 PACs were registered in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PACs received $5.7 million in contributions.

Colorado Proposition 116 was designed to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado. It was approved by a vote of 57.88% to 42.12%.

The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee raised $1.55 million in contributions to support the measure. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado reported $3.19 million in contributions to oppose the measure.

An amendment to authorize the state to enact legislation providing for a graduated income tax was on the ballot in Illinois where it was defeated by a vote of 45.46% to 54.54%. The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. In Illinois, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95%.

The Vote Yes For Fairness, Vote Yes for Fair Tax, and Yes to a Financially Responsible Illinois PACs were registered to support the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.33 million. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed 94 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

The Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment, Coalition To Stop The Proposed Tax Hike, and Chambers Against Progressive Income Tax PACs were registered to oppose the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.86 million. Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, contributed 88 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

Going into the 2020 election, 43 states levied a tax on personal income. Of these 43 states, 11 states had a flat income tax rate, meaning there is a constant rate across income before deductions and exemptions. The flat income tax rates ranged from 2.00% in Tennessee to 5.25% in North Carolina. Tennessee’s income tax was scheduled to be reduced to 1.00% in 2020 and to be repealed entirely in 2021. Most (32 of 50) states had a graduated income tax, with different rates applied to different levels of income.

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Oregon ballot measure campaigns raised over $25.3 million

Support and opposition campaigns for Oregon’s four ballot measures reported raising over $25.3 million according to the latest campaign finance reports filed November 10. 

Yes for a Healthy Future, the campaign behind Oregon Measure 108, received the most contributions with over $13.7 million. The top donor to the committee with $3.3 million was Providence Health and Services, a Washington-based Catholic nonprofit hospital system. The opposition campaign—No on 108—reported $8,000 in contributions. Measure 108 was approved and will enact increased taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes).

Supporters of Oregon Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of controlled substances, reported nearly $6 million in contributions with More Treatment for a Better Oregon receiving the bulk of the contributions. The top donor to the support committees was the Drug Policy Alliance with $5 million in contributions. Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has funded marijuana legalization and drug decriminalization efforts in other states. More Treatment for a Better Oregon also received $500,000 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The No on Measure 110 campaign reported receiving $167,740.00 in contributions with the bulk of that being in loans.

Yes for Psilocybin Therapy, the campaign in support of Measure 109, reported receiving $3.9 million in contributions. The top donor to the campaign was New Approach PAC with $3.5 million. New Approach is a 527 nonprofit organization founded in 2014 and based in Washington, D.C. The organization has supported other ballot initiatives to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. No campaigns registered in opposition to Measure 109, which was approved.

There were two campaigns registered in support of Measure 107: Yes for Fair and Honest Elections and Honest Elections Oregon. Together, they reported receiving $171,397.00 in contributions. The measure was approved. It will authorize the state legislature and local governments to enact certain campaign finance restrictions and requirements. The top donors to the support campaign were End Citizen’s United ($25,200), Kate Brown Committee ($27,833.00), and AFSCME Council 75 (20,000.00).

From 1985 to 2020, the average number of measures appearing on even-numbered year Oregon ballots was 14. The four measures in 2020 were the fewest number of measures to appear on even-numbered year ballots.

In 2020, committees registered to support or oppose statewide ballot measures reported a combined total of $1.19 billion in contributions. The following five states had the most ballot measure campaign contributions reported:

  • California – $739.0 million in contributions
  • Illinois – $121.2 million in contributions
  • Massachusetts – $61.6 million in contributions
  • Colorado – $59.2 million in contributions
  • Arizona – $33.6 million in contributions

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Wyoming amendment concerning municipal debt for sewage systems fails

The Wyoming State Legislature referred Constitutional Amendment A to the November 2020 ballot. The measure was designed to remove the constitutional limit on debt a municipality could incur for municipal sewer projects. Going into the election, the limit on total debt for municipal projects was 4% of the assessed value of the taxable property within the municipality. The constitution allows for an additional 4% for municipal sewer projects. The measure would have removed the additional limit of 4% for sewer projects and instead allowed the legislature to provide for additional indebtedness.

This measure failed since it required approval from a majority of voters casting a ballot at the election, which means leaving Amendment A blank was the equivalent of voting against it. Of the total ballots cast, 11.17% of voters either left Amendment A blank or filled in both “for” and “against.”

  • Total ballots cast at the election – 278,503 (100%)
  • Total votes for Amendment A – 126,589 (45.45%)
  • Total votes against Amendment A – 120,808 (43.38%)
  • Undervotes and overvotes on Amendment A – 31,106 (11.17%)

From 1996 through 2018, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 26 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 18 and rejected eight of the referred amendments. Four of the eight rejected measures were defeated despite receiving more yes votes than no votes. They failed for the same reason Amendment A (2020) failed. All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was two. The approval rate at the ballot box was 69.23% during the 22-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 30.77%.

Five other states besides Wyoming have this type of requirement based on election turnout instead of votes cast on the measure itself. Four require constitutional amendments to be approved by a majority of all voters at the election, and one requires approval from a number equal to a majority of all voters casting a ballot for governor. Three other states have provisions that require approval from a certain percentage, ranging from 30% to 40%, of all voters at the election. Provisions like these mean that a certain number of undervotes on an amendment could prevent the measure from passing despite approval from a majority of votes cast on the measure itself.

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California Proposition 15, which would have created a split roll property tax, defeated

California Proposition 15 was rejected 48.1%-51.9% based to votes tallied through November 12. Proposition 15 would have required commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. In California, the proposal to assess taxes on commercial and industrial properties at market value, while continuing to assess taxes on residential properties based on the purchase price, was known as split roll. 

Proposition 15 would have required that revenue, after accounting for adjustments, be distributed to schools and local governments. The state fiscal analyst estimated that, upon full implementation, the ballot initiative would generate between $8 billion and $12.5 billion in revenue per year.

Proposition 15 would have amended Proposition 13 (1978), which required that residential, commercial, and industrial properties be taxed based on their purchase price. The tax under Proposition 13 was limited to no more than 1 percent of the purchase price (at the time of purchase), with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower.

More than $148 million was raised for and against Proposition 15, making the measure the second most expensive of 2020 nationwide. Supporters had raised $74.2 million, and opponents had raised $73.8 million. Yes on 15 received contributions from the California Teachers Association ($17.8 million), Chan Zuckerberg Advocacy ($11.6 million), and the SEIU California State Council ($6.3 million). No on 15 received contributions from the California Business Roundtable ($31.9 million), the California Business Properties Association ($1.8 million), and California Taxpayers Association ($1.0 million).



Ballotpedia identifies 20 local police-related ballot measures decided Nov. 3

Following the killing of George Floyd on May 25, cities and counties introduced police-related measures. Ballotpedia tracked 20 such measures that appeared on the Nov. 3 ballot. 

All 20 measures were approved or were ahead pending the count of remaining ballots. Note: All vote counts were as of 6:00 p.m. EST on Nov. 11.

Cities and counties that approved these police-related issues in November included:

○ Los Angeles County, California

○ Oakland, California

○ San Diego, California

○ San Francisco, California

○ San Jose, California

○ Sonoma County, California

○ DuPage County, Illinois

○ Akron, Ohio

○ Columbus, Ohio

○ Portland, Oregon

○ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

○ Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

○ Kyle, Texas

○ King County, Washington

Three notable measures among the 20 were:

Los Angeles County Measure J – This measure requires that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration. It prohibited the use of those funds for incarceration or law enforcement purposes.

Columbus Issue 2 – This measure created the Civilian Police Review Board to investigate alleged police misconduct, subpoena testimony and evidence during the investigations, make recommendations to the Division of Police, and appoint and manage the new position of Inspector General for the Division of Police. Prior to Nov. 2020, Columbus did not have a police oversight board or commission or an equivalent agency. According to the National Fraternal Order of Police, 20 of the 25 largest city police departments in the U.S. had an oversight board or commission in place as of the beginning of 2020.

Portland Measure 26-217 – This measure amended the city charter to establish a new police oversight board to replace the existing police review board. It allows the new board to subpoena witnesses, request police documents and evidence to investigate complaints made against the Portland Police Bureau, and impose disciplinary actions up to termination of law enforcement professionals. It also authorizes the board to recommend policing policy to the Portland Police Bureau and Portland City Council.



Puerto Ricans approve non-binding statehood referendum

Voters in Puerto Rico approved a non-binding referendum that asked: “Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?” The “Yes” side received 623,053 or 52.3% as of votes recorded on November 9. 

While the ballot measure itself cannot compel the U.S. Congress to act on the issue of Puerto Rico’s political status, the ballot measure contained a provision authorizing the governor to appoint a seven-member commission to represent Puerto Rico in matters and negotiations related to achieving statehood. The commission will meet to develop a transition plan, which the governor can approve or reject, and present the plan to Congress and the President.

This year’s ballot measure is the sixth in Puerto Rico’s history on the territory’s political status, and it was the first one to give voters a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option on a single potential status.



Notable ballot measure results following the Nov. 3 elections

As of 10:50 AM Eastern Time on Nov. 4, Ballotpedia had called 82 statewide ballot measures, of which 65 were approved and 17 were defeated. The remaining 38 remained uncalled.

Here are some notable results:

Voters approved changes to state drug and criminal justice policies in several states. In Oregon, two ballot measures—Measure 109 and Measure 110—were approved. Measure 109 created a program for administering psilocybin products, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi. Measure 110 decriminalized Schedule I-IV controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. In Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voters approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana. Mississippi, along with South Dakota, also approved medical marijuana programs. Voters in Oklahoma rejected a ballot initiative, State Question 805, that would have prohibited the use of a person’s past non-violent felony convictions to impose a greater (enhanced) sentence when sentencing a person convicted of a non-violent felony.

In California, voters approved Proposition 17, which expanded the right to vote to people on parole for felony convictions. In Alabama, Colorado, and Florida, constitutional amendments were approved to state that “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote. 

Abortion was on the ballot in Colorado and Louisiana. Colorado Proposition 115, which would have prohibited abortion after a fetus reaches 22-weeks gestational age, was defeated. Louisiana Amendment 1 was approved, adding language to the Louisiana Constitution stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

On election policy issues, both Florida Amendment 3 and Massachusetts Question 2 were defeated. Florida Amendment 3 would have created a top-two primary system, and Massachusetts Question 2 would have adopted ranked-choice voting.

In Colorado, voters approved Amendment B, which repealed the Gallagher Amendment. Colorado Proposition 116 decreased the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating. Colorado Proposition 118 established a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado to provide 12 weeks (up to 16 weeks in certain cases) of paid leave (with a maximum benefit of $1,100 per week) funded through a payroll tax to be paid for by employers and employees in a 50/50 split.

In Mississippi, voters approved a new state flag after the state got rid of the older flag that featured the Confederate battle flag. The new flag features a Southern magnolia flower and the phrase ‘In God We Trust’.

In California, three of this year’s most expensive ballot measures—Propositions 21, 22, and 23—were decided. Proposition 21, which would have expanded the ability of local governments to enact rent control, was defeated. Proposition 23, which would have placed certain regulations on dialysis clinics, was defeated. Proposition 22—the most expensive measure in California history—was approved. Proposition 22, backed by Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Postmates, and Instacart, defined app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. Therefore, the ballot measure overrode Assembly Bill 5, signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

Some notable measures that remained uncalled include Alaska’s ranked-choice voting measure, California’s split roll tax initiative , and Colorado’s gray wolf reintroduction initiative.



Illinois voters reject constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax

Illinois voters rejected a constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax by a vote of 55% against to 45% in favor.  

The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.

More than $121 million was raised by supporters and opponents of the measure. Supporters raised $60.33 million, including $56.5 million from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Opponents raised $60.86 million, including $53.8 million from Citadel CEO Kenneth C. Griffin.

This measure was the most expensive of 2020 outside of California.



Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota pass ballot measures to legalize marijuana

Ballot measures to legalize marijuana were passed by voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, bringing the total number of states with laws providing for legal marijuana to 15. 

Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota are the only states besides Alaska that voted for Republican presidential candidates from 2000 to 2016 and that have now voted to legalize recreational marijuana. North Dakota, which also voted for Republican presidential candidates from 2000 to 2016, rejected a recreational marijuana ballot measure in 2018.

As of 8:00 AM ET, the results for this year’s recreational or personal use marijuana measures is as follows:

  • Arizona Proposition 207: 59.8% – 40.02%
  • Montana Initiative 118: 57.7% – 42.3%
  • Montana Initiative 190: 56.6% – 43.4%
  • New Jersey: 66.9% – 33.1%
  • South Dakota: 53.4% – 46.6%


Nov. 4 ballot measure update

As of 7:30 Eastern on Nov. 4, Ballotpedia had called 93 statewide ballot measures, of which 72 were approved and 21 were defeated. The remaining 27 (out of the 120 total) remained uncalled.

Here are some notable measures that we called on Wednesday:

Illinois voters reject a constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax. The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. More than $121 million was raised by supporters and opponents of the measure. Supporters raised $60.33 million, including $56.5 million from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Opponents raised $60.86 million, including $53.8 million from Citadel CEO Kenneth C. Griffin.

In California, voters rejected Proposition 16. Proposition 16 would have allowed the use of affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences in California by repealing Proposition 209, passed in 1996, from the California Constitution. Proposition 209 stated that discrimination and preferential treatment were prohibited in public employment, public education, and public contracting on account of a person’s or group’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

Voters also decided that California will not become the first state to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials. Proposition 25 was a veto referendum targeting the repeal of Senate Bill 10 (2019), which would have replaced cash bail with risk assessments.

Colorado voters approved Proposition 113 by a vote of 52% to 48% according to results available at 6:30 pm on Wednesday. Approval added Colorado (with its nine electoral votes) to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). NPVIC member states agree to give their electoral college votes to the presidential candidate that wins the national popular vote if the NPVIC goes into effect. The NPVIC was designed to go into effect if states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes join, guaranteeing the national popular vote winner is elected. 

Colorado is the first state in which voters decided whether the state should enter the NPVIC. Going into the election, 14 states and Washington, D.C., representing 187 Electoral College votes altogether, had adopted legislation to join the compact. The other 14 NPVIC member states joined the compact through bills signed by Democratic governors or, in Hawaii’s case, through an override of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto.

California Proposition 25 and Colorado Proposition 113 were two of 2020’s three statewide veto referendums on the Nov. 3 ballot. Veto referendums are measures put on the ballot through signature petitions targeting the repeal of bills recently passed by state legislatures. The last time a veto referendum appeared on the ballot for Colorado voters was in 1932.

The third veto referendum was Washington Referendum 90, which voters approved, upholding a bill requiring public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education for all students. 

On the three measures, California voters sided with petitioners and against the legislature. Colorado and Washington sided with their legislatures and against petitioners. 

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