Election Blues and Reviews III: Tax Hikes Lose

See also Part I, “Created Equal,” and Part II, Religious Right Loses.”

Something extraordinary happened in Colorado: at the same time voters elected Democrats throughout most of the state, they also rejected several tax hikes on the state ballot. So Democrats would do well not to interpret the election results as a mandate for big-government, tax-and-spend, anti-liberty, regressive “progressivism.” This election was fundamentally a defeat of the Republicans, not a victory for the left’s agenda. (For example, I voted for several Democrats and not a single Republican this year, yet I hardly endorse the Democrats’ corporate welfare, tax hikes, and central planning.)

If national Democrats want to stay in power, they would do well to follow the lead of Colorado Democrats, and run a moderate agenda, pay off their special interests as little as politically feasible, and refrain from pissing off the nation’s honorable gun owners.

The big news of of the night is that Amendment 59, the cleverly written net tax hike superficially for education, lost by a healthy margin. (See all of the ballot results.) To review quickly, 59 would have forever wiped out the tax refunds of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), thus raising net taxes forever. The measure was brilliantly conceived in that it didn’t raise the rate at which taxes are collected, it allocated the money to education, and it created a “savings account.” Yet, as opponents pointed out, it would merely have freed up existing money for other purposes.

Obviously the measure went down to defeat because of the article I wrote against it back in September. Kidding. Diana Hsieh put up a great web page against the measure. Penn Pfiffner and the Independence Institute put out some material criticizing the measure. Douglas Bruce, known as the father of TABOR, mailed out a flyer attacking the measure. And various bloggers joined the chorus singing no.

But I have to say I figured 59 would win. Its backers raised substantial funds and organized an effective grassroots campaign. I thought this was Referendum C all over again. Meanwhile, Jon Caldara was busy with his failed effort to curb union funding, and Hsieh and I were busy fighting Amendment 48. It’s tough when Team Liberty has to go up against the religious right and the statist left at the same time.

In the end three things worked together to defeat 59, I think. First, a lot of voters remember Referendum C, TaxTracks, etc., etc. When is enough enough? Second, the economy is a little shaky, and people realize they can put their own money to good use. Third, with so many ballot measures, I think “no” became the default vote for many.

Two other important tax hikes also failed: 51 and 58. And they lost by wide margins that surprised me. Amendment 51 would have raised the sales tax for “people with developmental disabilities,” while 58 would have raised net taxes on energy producers.

Other Ballot Measures

I was sorry to see Amendment 49 lose. That would have prevented government from diverting funds from the paychecks of government employees to unions. But 49 got lumped in with two anti-union measures that I opposed: 47 (“right to work”) and 54 (limiting campaign contributions by government contractors). It’s too bad that, in their anti-union zeal, the conservatives didn’t think about protecting individual rights. Had 49 run solo on the ballot, it would have had a much better chance.

Amendment 46, which would have banned race-based affirmative action by government, remains close, but it appears to be going down. That’s too bad, but its practical implications would have been slight.

The other measure worth noting, Referendum O, went down to defeat. It would have made it harder to amend the state’s constitution by ballot. So it’s status quo.

As far as the ballot measures go, the big news is that 48 and 59 lost. Those were the two most important issues, they were both bad, and they both went down. And that’s a big reason why I’m relatively pleased with the election results.

In the next and final part, I lay out a plan for the GOP to regroup and develop a new winning coalition.