"Would you like to raise your own taxes?" was a question on the ballot in several states last night. Of course, voters (mostly) said no. And importantly, a vote to increase taxes means increasing not just one's own tax burden, but that of friends and neighbors, too.
Coloradans voted down a measure that would have raised taxes on high earners and small businesses to increase state education funding. A similar initiative, to fund a home healthcare program, failed in Maine. Washington state voted to limit new taxes on groceries. Arizona, Florida and North Carolina also saw successful ballot initiatives that limit taxation as well.
These voters made the right decision. While none of us wants to see our states or communities without the resources they need, now is not the time to raise taxes. The economy is roaring, with record low unemployment, fast-rising wages and benefits, high consumer confidence, healthy GDP growth and a strong stock market. And here's one more effect of a strong economy: Both the federal government and state governments are on track to see high revenues. Remember, if the economy is like a pie, and the pie gets bigger, then Uncle Sam's slice of the pie gets bigger, too.
Our states simply aren't starved for cash. Instead, we should be asking state lawmakers to do better with the revenues they already have, not coming to voters with an open hand. Voters rightfully rejected tax increases this year.
(As an aside, the rejection of tax initiatives was not universal. Two states, Oregon and California, voted the other way. Interestingly, in California, voters were asked if they wanted to repeal a gas tax that is being used to fund state transportation projects. This is kind of a backward question, relative to ballot initiatives in other states. Oregon voters rejected a measure that would have banned taxes on groceries.)
Let's talk political implications: Although voters mostly chose wisely on tax initiatives, one head-scratching and ironic result of last night's election is that the Republican Party, responsible for federal tax cuts, lost the House of Representatives and suffered losses at the state level in many states.
This means many voters voted for conservative policies but not conservative politicians. This is likely because 1) while the economy is a big issue, it's not the only issue, or even the #1 issue for most voters. And 2) because while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a middle-class tax cut, many people don't perceive it that way. This means the GOP needs to do a better job communicating that point and working to respond to voters on non-economy issues moving forward.
We can celebrate that when asked about policy, most voters in most states made the right call and limited tax increases.