Along with giving a roundup of the range of initiatives on the ballot in this off-year election, this Dispatch will give special focus to the campaigns against TABOR and defending relationship equality laws.
Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform has a policy center called the Center for Fiscal Accountability, where they promote many of their anti-government policies, from deadlocking legislatures with supermajority requirements to mandated spending limits to strangle social services.
Earlier this year, policymakers in Oregon enacted both temporary
and permanent changes in the state’s tax system to help close an
enormous budget gap and, by extension, provide funding for vital
services like education, health care, and public safety... Yet, due to quirks
in Oregon’s legislative process, opponents of these changes have an
opportunity to put them before the voters for approval via referendum.
Not surprisingly, representatives of big business and a who’s who of
anti-tax organizations are attempting to take full advantage of that
If most state legislatures are considering reasonable revenue increases this year, a few, like Missouri's House, have been captured by rightwing anti-tax fundamentalists. One of the pet ideas of the far right in recent years has been eliminating the income tax for both individuals and corporations and replacing it with a sales tax applied to every transaction. The rightwing call it the "fair tax" and the Missouri House became the first legislative chamber in the country to vote for a constitutional amendment, HJR 36, that would put the issue to voters in 2010.
After resisting the proposal for months, New York Governor Patterson has agreed with legislative leaders to raise income taxes on the wealthiest state residents in order to help close the state budget gap. “It’s a profound breakthrough for tax fairness,” said Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party, an organization of New York individuals, labor unions and other groups that was a leader in the campaign to raise the tax rates. The New York deal is part of a national movement of state leaders looking to raise new revenue from high-income residents to avoid budget cuts and fund needed investments for long-term economic recovery.
For decades, property tax revolts have been a thorn in the
side of progressives. California's Proposition 13 remains
the highest profile example of the property tax revolt, but just about every
legislator in the country can attest to the level of frustration many Americans
feel about property taxes.
Progressives can begin to challenge property tax caps by simply
presenting research showing the regressive nature of property tax caps in a
They also need to fight the rightwing promoting one of the most disastrous
tax policies in recent decades, namely variations on Colorado'sso-called
Taxpayer Bill Of Rights (TABOR) which created a rigid cap on increases in
state spending tied to inflation and economic growth, decimating the state's
investments in education, health care, and social services.
One other dangerous form of tax limitation laws are
rules that require supermajorities to pass any tax increase. In such
cases, special interests may be able to enact a tax break for
themselves with a simple majority, but then can often block repeal of the
tax loophole as a "tax increase" that can be blocked by a
minority of legislators
The budget news is grim in some states. Twenty states face a combined
budget shortfall of at least $35 billion for 2009, according to analysis by the Center on Budget Policy & Priorities (see CBPP graph below). Another 8 states will likely have budget problems next year or the year after.