Publisher's note: This post, by Brian Balfour, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
Mecklenburg County voters on Tuesday rejected
a local quarter cent sales tax hike sold as a way to raise funds for area art projects and parks. The tax was projected to cost taxpayers about $55 million annually. Its the second time in five years that Mecklenburg voters have rejected a sales tax increase.
The proposal failed in spite of a $1.1 million advertising campaign by supporters, and is emblematic of some strong anti-tax sentiment around the country.
The Tax Foundation provides a good overview
of several key tax-related measures voted on earlier this week.
In Texas, an overwhelming 75% of voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring a vote of the people to approve of any state income tax being imposed. Texas' economy has been buoyed by its lack of an income tax, and voters voiced their support for strong protections against ever imposing one.
Voters in Colorado, home to perhaps the nation's most well-known taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR), shot down an effort to suspend the policy of sending refunds to taxpayers whenever state revenue rises at a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. Seems that taxpayers like getting some of their hard-earned money back with the added bonus of restraining government growth. Disappointingly, a bill here in NC
that would have given millions of North Carolina taxpayers a refund passed in the Senate but failed to get approval in the House.
In Washington, voters approved a couple modest tax increases, but rejected many more. As the Tax Foundation described:
- Although voters gave their assent to the modest new tax on e-cigarettes and a surtax on international investment management services, they gave a thumbs-down to just about everything else: a new payroll tax to fund long-term care services, for instance; Business & Occupation tax surcharges on financial institutions, service industries, tour operators, timber products, and paint; a new petroleum tax; a graduated-rate real estate excise tax; and even remote sales tax authority. Clearly, Washington voters felt overtaxed, and with good reason.
Finally, we can recognize that voters are typically more receptive to so-called sin taxes on items like alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and betting. In addition to Colorado's new e-cigarette tax, two California cities unsurprisingly voted to legalize and tax marijuana, as did Colorado with sports betting. The lesson here is that voters are more likely to approve of taxes that are easier to avoid.
Taxes are never a popular topic for voters, with the sole exception of taxes people believe they won't have to pay. This week, many voters said enough is enough by rejecting tax hikes.