California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks in support of Proposition 30 at an elementary school in San Diego. Proposition 30 would boost the state sales tax for four years and raise income taxes for seven years on those who make more than $250,000 annually.(Photo: By Lenny Ignelzi, AP)
Voters appear ready to upset conventional wisdom in some cases
Tuesday when they tackle more than 1,000 ballot measures on some of the
toughest, most emotional issues, ranging from the right-to-die to union
Along with the presidential race, voters Tuesday will
decide 174 statewide ballot questions in 38 states, plus more than 1,000
local decisions, mostly to raise or cut taxes.
leading Republicans are supporting a tax hike. In Massachusetts,
Catholics appear ready to support the right-to-die for terminally ill
patients. Republican-friendly Idaho may reject the party's public
schools overhaul. Liberal Californians might say 'no' to a Democratic
plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.
"The presidential election
takes up so much air that we miss voters making critical decisions on a
wide-range of issues," says Justine Sarver, executive director of the
Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which pushes liberal ballot issues.
"We don't see the 'other' election being held right under our noses."
ballot issues are driven by the passion of individuals and groups,
often involving issues of the heart and wallet. No ballot issue is
expected to influence the presidential race this year.
voters see these as local issues - 'Do we need to build another school?'
- not as a comment on a national politics," says Greg Lawson, policy
analyst at the conservative Buckeye Institute. Swing-state Ohio has
property tax levies on the ballot in 194 of 613 school districts.
Big issues that may produce surprising results:
Arkansas. The state Chamber of Commerce is leading the fight
for a half-cent sales tax hike to fund $1.3 billion in highway
improvements, including expanding the Interstate 30 bridge over the
Arkansas River in Little Rock from six to 10 lanes. "Chambers generally
oppose tax increases," says chamber president Randy Zook. "But we
recognize that Washington is broke. If infrastructure is going to get
built, we have to step up and do it ourselves."
California. The proposal by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to fix
the state's budget is tumbling in the polls and clinging to narrow
support. He wants voters to raise the sales tax rate a quarter cent to
7.5% and the top income tax rate from 10.3% to 13.3%, bringing in up to
$9 billion a year.
Idaho. The Republican Legislature approved a model of
conservative school overhaul in 2011: phase out teacher tenure,
implement merit pay, limit collective-bargaining rights for teachers'
unions. Poll show a tossup.
Massachusetts. This heavily Catholic state appears ready to
give terminally ill patients the right to get drugs from a physician to
end their life despite strong opposition from church officials. Voters
in Oregon and Washington have approved similar laws, but this would be a
first outside the Pacific Northwest. "Government should not control how
much suffering a person must endure to die," advocate Steve Crawford
Some wealthy individuals are using the ballot this year to
fight for their ideas or economic interests. In California, civil rights
lawyer Molly Munger, daughter of Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charles
Munger, has spent $44 million promoting a ballot issue that competes
with the governor's. Her half-brother, Charles Munger Jr., a Stanford
physicist, has donated tens of millions of dollars toward defeating the
governor's tax plan.
In Michigan, billionaire Manuel Moroun, owner
of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, has spent more than $30 million on
a constitutional amendment designed to thwart construction of a rival
bridge between Michigan and Canada. "It's a proposal entirely about the
parochial interest of one family," says opponent Phil Power, president
of The Center for Michigan, a non-partisan research organization.