Tax Issues Taxing Voters Across the Country

Statewide ballot measures are much more common outside Indiana than on Hoosier ballots. More than 140 such initiatives are being left to voters this fall, with significant fiscal consequences for many. The efforts include both tax increases and cutbacks:

Washington State is one of nine states without a state income tax. Bill Gates Sr., the father of the Microsoft founder, wants to change that. Gates is lending his high-profile name and influence to a ballot measure that would tax the income of individuals who earn more than $200,000 and couples who earn more than $400,000. His son — the world’s second-richest person — definitely falls into that category.

The elder Gates, who also co-chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says Initiative 1098 would generate $1 billion a year in new revenue dedicated to education and health care. He also says it would put an end to Washington being “the most regressively taxed state in the country.” If approved, the measure would gin up an extra $11 billion over five years by taxing 38,400 high-wage earners in Washington, while lowering certain business and occupation taxes and cutting property taxes by 20 percent. “The very future of Washington hangs in the balance,” Gates says.

Opponents of Initiative1098 contend the measure would open the door to taxing not just the rich, but residents who earn all levels of income. They also say the measure, if it passes, would eliminate a key advantage the state has to lure businesses. “Don’t Calitaxicate Washington,” they plead.

Washington is one of several states where voters this fall will weigh in on ballot measures that, if passed, would have enormous fiscal consequences. Voters in California, Colorado and Massachusetts will take up tax questions that could expand or shrink the foundations on which future budgets are built. Drama awaits on the spending side of budgets, too. In Arizona, voters could blow a $450 million hole in the state’s current budget if they reject two key measures this fall. And in Florida, voters will decide whether to save billions of dollars by relaxing limits on class sizes at schools.

In total, more than 140 statewide measures have qualified for the November ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Stateline has compiled a guide to the most crucial ones to watch here.