Voters to Decide Ballot Measures With Huge Fiscal Consequences

Several states will have measures on the ballot this fall, that if passed, would have major fiscal consequences, some of which would affect local governments.

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.Scott Pattison, executive director the National Association of State Budget Officers, says he worries that when voters are presented with questions that so deeply impact revenue, they make decisions in a vacuum. “At least when the Legislature passes a budget, everything is relative to one another,” Pattison says. “If you spend $10 million here, you may not be able to spend $10 million there.”

Pattison, whose organization does not take positions on ballot measures, also notes that voters may not realize how revenue measures might affect a state’s competitiveness. “If your taxes are too out of whack from your neighbor’s,” he says, “then it’s a problem.”

California has a ballot initiative that would prohibit the state from using local government and transportation funding for other purposes.  In Colorado, there is a measure to prevent the state from taking on more debt and to restrict local government’s ability to borrow.

Sujit M. CanagaRetna, senior fiscal analyst at the Council of State Governments, says this year’s measures will test voters on the most basic of questions: What do they expect of their state governments and what are they, as taxpayers, willing to fund?

A compilation of the most crucial ballot measures can be found on

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