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Election Preview: Voters to Decide on Statewide TBED Issues

October 29, 2008

While the Presidential election takes center stage on November 4, voters in several states also will cast their votes on statewide ballot issues affecting the TBED community. In addition to the 11 gubernatorial races and more than 5,800 state legislative seats up for grabs, voters across the nation will consider measures to provide funding for public education, expand investment in alternative and renewable energy, lift restrictions on stem-cell research, and eliminate income tax and state spending caps. Following is a summary of selected ballot issues from across the nation.

Funding Public Education

Florida
Florida voters will be asked to amend the state constitution to require that the legislature authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax to supplement funding for public community colleges. Ballot question 8 requires voter approval to levy the tax.

Maryland
A proposal in Maryland asks voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution authorizing video lottery terminal gaming to provide funds for public education. Question 2 legalizes up to 15,000 machines at sites in four counties and the city of Baltimore. HB 4 requires the revenue raised from the video lottery machines be used for public education in pre-K through grade 12, public school construction and capital improvements, and construction of capital projects at community colleges and public senior higher education institutions.

Energy

California
Voters will decide on two energy-related issues. Proposition 7 requires public and private utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2010, 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. The measure additionally speeds the approval process for new renewable energy plants, requires utilities to sign longer contracts (20-year minimum) to procure renewable energy, and creates accounts to purchase rights-of-way and facilities for the transmission of renewable energy. The state estimates the short term impact to include a spike in rates leading to higher costs, lower sales and income tax revenue and higher local utility tax revenues.

Proposition 10 authorizes the state to borrow $10 billion over 30 years for R&D in alternative fuel technology in order to reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil. The proposal calls for $3.4 billion to help consumers purchase high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles and to fund research into alternative fuel technology, $1.25 billion for R&D and production of renewable energy technology - primarily solar - and grants to cities for renewable energy projects and to colleges for training in renewable energy efficiency technologies. Total funding is $5 billion from general obligation bonds with another $5 billion in interest.

Missouri
Proposition C requires investor-owned electric utilities to generate or purchase electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydropower with the renewable energy sources equaling at least 2 percent of retail sales by 2011. This would increase incrementally to at least 15 percent by 2021. The measure would not have an impact on taxes and any rate increase to consumers must be capped at one percent.

Stem Cell Research

Michigan
Voters will decide on a controversial issue overturning the state's ban on stem cell research. Proposal 08-2 amends the state constitution to allow research on embryonic stem cells created for fertility treatment that would otherwise be destroyed. The measure additionally prohibits state and local laws that prevent, restrict or discourage stem cell research, future therapies and cures.

Taxes

Colorado
A proposal in Colorado aims to eliminate rebates that taxpayers receive under the taxpayer bill of rights and divert those funds to a new savings account for public education. Amendment 59 creates a savings account within the State Education Fund and places 10 percent of income tax revenue that is currently deposited into the fund into the savings account until it reaches a certain threshold.

Massachusetts
Massachusetts voters will decide on a measure to eliminate the personal income tax by 2010. Question 1 on the statewide ballot reduces the state personal income tax rate to 2.65 percent for the tax year beginning Jan. 1, 2009 and eliminates the tax for all years after Jan. 1, 2010.

North Dakota
Statutory Measure 2 reduces individual income tax rates by half and corporation income tax rates by 15 percent for tax years beginning in 2009. An analysis conducted by the state tax commissioner finds the measure would reduce state general fund revenues by an estimated $414 million in the 2009-11 biennium.

Oregon
Measure 59 would allow individual taxpayers to deduct the federal income taxes they pay from their state tax returns. With no general sales tax collected in the state, Oregon's state service and public schools rely on income tax collection. The state estimates a reduction in state budget revenues by approximately $360 million in the first year and $1 billion in the second year.

California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregonstate tbed, state revenue