Lee Schalk

New Jersey passed a statewide minimum wage hike, from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. In SeaTac, Washington, voters also approved a minimum wage increase, from the default state rate of $9.19 to a local rate of $15 an hour. Both of these measures sailed through with strong support, despite the fact that they may actually reduce overall employment by making unskilled and young workers more expensive to hire. Additionally, businesses are likely to pass on the cost of the wage increases to consumers.

Texans said “yes” to Amendment 6 by a whopping 73 to 27 percent, allowing state officials to tap into the Lone Star State’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for local water projects.

In Maine, where per-capita debt ranks 12th-highest in the nation, voters agreed to five ballot questions that will increase the State’s borrowing by an additional $149.5 million. Fiscal responsibility also continues to elude New York, where the passage of Proposal 1 will permit localities to keep exceeding debt limits when constructing or reconstructing sewage facilities.

An attempt to strengthen the initiative and referendum process in Washington went down 60 to 40 percent. Initiative 517 would have extended signature collection time for ballot measures, ensured that proposals earning sufficient citizen signatures appeared on the ballot without obstruction, and set penalties for harassing petition organizers.

At the local level, perhaps the most demoralizing defeat was in Cincinnati, where 78 percent of voters shot down Issue 4. This pension reform package would have enrolled new City employees in a defined contribution retirement plan, rather than the current defined benefit plan and would have made other important, fiscally responsible changes. Evidently, the downgrade to the City’s credit rating and warning from NTU board member and former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell could not overcome a union-orchestrated scare campaign.

The victories of Chris Christie and Terry McAuliffe will affect taxes and spending in New Jersey and Virginia, but the results of ballot measures are likely to have the most impact on government growth, economic vitality, job creation, and taxpayers’ wallets in communities across the nation. Even in blue states, voters remain cautious about pocketbook issues when they can feel the financial impact.

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.