Lee Schalk

While New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races dominated headlines last week, the most fascinating election story wasn’t on the East Coast. It was in Colorado, where Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates chipped in millions to fund a $1 billion income tax hike campaign, only to see it handily defeated by nearly a 2-1 margin—proof that the threat of a massive tax hike can transform a moderate electorate into a throng of fiscal conservatives.

For months, Centennial State taxpayers were flooded with ads for Amendment 66, which would have siphoned away as much as 27 percent extra from Coloradans’ hard-earned paychecks. That, taxpayers were told, would be a small price to pay so kids could go back to gym class.

And while Amendment 66 supporters spent roughly $10 million to opponents’ $30,000, 66 percent of voters fired back on their ballots to defeat the most significant statewide measure of 2013. This is encouraging, since these are largely the same voters that have recently helped to elect tax-and-spenders like Governor Hickenlooper and President Obama. When increasingly moderate Coloradans demonstrate their clear understanding of the growth-sapping effects of income tax hikes, opponents of such schemes are doing something right.

The defeat of Amendment 66 wasn’t the only bad news for Bloomberg and bigger-government advocates in Colorado. In Telluride, 68 percent of voters rejected a regressive penny-per-ounce soda tax. Similar measures were overwhelmingly shot down in Richmond and El Monte, California last November. All three of these cities gave President Obama strong support in that election yet sent the soda tax hikers packing.

Outside of Colorado, election night included other statewide and local ballot measure victories for taxpayers.

In Texas, voters approved five pro-taxpayer amendments: three that grant property tax relief, one that shrinks government by eliminating the ineffective State Medical Education Board, and another that provides consumer flexibility by allowing reverse mortgages.

Washington state taxpayers deflated Initiative 522, which could have significantly disrupted commerce and increased consumer costs by requiring the labeling of genetically modified food.

Locally, sales tax hikes were rejected in Taney and Lewis Counties, as well as in Kansas City, Missouri. Plain City, Rocky River, and Sheffield Lake, Ohio voters vetoed local income tax hikes. Citizens of Hialeah, Florida approved pension reform. Kaysville, Utah taxpayers passed a measure to increase government spending transparency. In Texas, a debt increase to save the Houston Astrodome failed.

But a handful of results ranged from bad to downright ugly for taxpayers.


Lee Schalk

Lee Schalk is State Affairs Manager for National Taxpayers Union, where he leads NTU's efforts at the state and local level. He also coordinates partnerships with grassroots advocacy groups to fight for lower taxes and smaller government.