Paul Jacob

Republicans may sweep into a congressional majority this November.

Will it matter?

Considering that our current ills began long before President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority, there’s cause for skepticism.

Direct policy change is available to voters, however, in the 37 states where they’ll decide the fate of 175 ballot measures. As Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, points out, “One big difference between initiatives and elected representatives is that initiatives do not change their minds once you vote them in.”

Most of the measures on this year’s state ballots (121) were placed there by legislators, a 22 percent increase in such referrals from 2008; citizens petitioned to place just 51 measures onto state ballots, a 31 percent decrease from last cycle. (Three states — Maryland, Michigan and Montana — have an automatic question on the ballot asking voters if they want to call a constitutional convention.)

The reduction in citizen initiative activity may result from years of legislators passing more and more burdensome restrictions on the process, always with the enthusiastic backing of the special interests ensconced in our state capitols. At least, many of these restrictions are now being challenged and overturned as unconstitutional violations of our most basic rights to speak, to assemble and to petition our government.

Still, these ballot measures carry important consequences. They directly change the law. Further, a public vote on an issue sends a far clearer message as to the will of the people than the election of one less-evil candidate over a more-evil one.

Here are the ten measures that will have the greatest impact:

1. Washington I-1098: Establish a State Income Tax Initiative
This measure would begin a state income tax on incomes of $200,000 and greater. Economic growth in Washington and the other six states without any income tax at all compared to the states that tax income is so dramatic one wonders what on earth could possess the voters of Washington to favor this proposal. Trust they won’t.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.