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Key ballot initiatives to impact state futures

November 01, 2018

SSTI has reviewed the ballot initiatives across the country that affect innovation. Several states have energy initiatives on their ballots, while higher education funding is at play in Maine, Montana, New Jersey and Rhode Island. Utah could become only the second state to fund its schools through gas taxes, if a measure there is passed. At the same time, four states have ballot issues addressing redistricting commissions which could have a significant impact on state legislative makeup when lines are redrawn after the 2020 census.



Proposition 127: 50 Percent Renewable Energy Standard by 2030 Amendment. The measure requires that electric utilities acquire 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030 with the percent required steadily increasing each year.



Amendment Y: Colorado Commission for Congressional Redistricting Amendment creates a 12-member commission to draw congressional districts for Colorado and establishes criteria for the district maps, including competitiveness of the districts, and membership of the commission.  The provision requires establishment of a process so that eight of the 12 members approve of the final map.


Amendment Z: Colorado Commission for Legislative Redistricting Amendment creates a 12-member commission to draw legislative districts for Colorado and like Amendment Y establishes criteria for the state legislative district maps, including competitiveness of the districts and membership of the commission. The provision requires establishment of a process so that eight of the 12 members approve of the final map.


Amendment 73: Increase and Creation of Graduated Taxes on Incomes above $150,000 and Increase in Corporate Taxes to Fund Public Schools Initiative seeks to amend the state constitution to replace Colorado's flat income tax by creating a graduated income tax, and increases income taxes on incomes above $150,000. It also increases the corporate income tax by 1.37 percent. The funds will create the Quality Public Education Fund, which will be exempt from the TABOR revenue limit, supplement the general fund, and adjusted each year for inflation (to maximum of 5 percent). The fund will be used to increase the funding for the per-pupil basis, special education, preschool, English language, and gifted students and increase kindergarten funding to provide full-day school. Colorado's constitution requires a 55 percent supermajority vote for the initiative to become law.



Florida has several ballot initiatives with potential significant impacts for tax collection in the state. The most significant of these is Amendment 5, which would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature in order to implement any new or increased tax or fee. Other tax-related amendments would increase property tax exemptions by $25,000 (Amendment 1) and place a permanent cap on assessment increases (Amendment 2). Amendment 3 would make casino gambling, and therefore gambling-related tax revenues, subject only to voter approval.

Florida voters will also have an opportunity to impact higher education policy through Amendment 7. This initiative would require supermajority votes by both an institution’s board of trustees and by the state’s board of governors to implement new or increased fees (not tuition). The amendment would also make the state’s existing community college system structure part of the constitution. An analysis by a constitution commission indicates that the change will have no fiscal impacts but would enable community colleges to provide baccalaureate degrees.



Maine has two bond issues on the ballot that deal with higher education. Question 4 would authorize $49 million in general obligation bonds to be matched by at least $49 million in private and public funds to modernize and improve the facilities and infrastructure of Maine’s public universities in order to expand workforce development capacity and attract and retain students to strengthen Maine’s economy and workforce. Question 5 would authorize $15 million in general obligation bonds for the renovation and expansion of instructional labs, information technology infrastructure, and heating and ventilating systems at Maine’s seven community colleges.



Question 1 in Maryland could dedicate additional gambling tax revenues to education. The state already assigns a portion of this revenue to preschool and primary education, but the amendment would step this commitment up to 100 percent of gambling tax revenues by 2023.



Michigan Proposal 2, also known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, would transfer the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a new, 13-member, independent redistricting commission.



Amendment 1: Reforms to Lobbying, Campaign Finance, Public Records, and Redistricting Amendment  would reform lobbying, campaign finance, redistricting, and public records. The redistricting provision would result in the creation of a non-partisan state demographer position who would be selected through a special process and draw maps to present to the legislature. Partisan fairness and competitiveness would be two of the criteria.



Legislative Referendum 128: Property Tax for State University System Measure would continue a six-mill property tax to fund the Montana University System for 10 years.



Question 6: 50 Percent Renewable Energy Standard by 2030 Amendment requires that electric utilities acquire 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030.


New Jersey

New Jersey Public Question 1, also known as the School Projects Bond or the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, would issue $500 million in general obligation bonds to support school infrastructure and career and technical education. Of the $500 million in bonds, $350 million would go toward career and technical education infrastructure (as well as school security projects), $50 million would go toward grants for career and technical education colleges, and $100 million would go toward water infrastructure at schools.


New Mexico

Bond Measure 6: Higher Education, Special Schools, and Tribal School Bond would authorize the issuance of $128.4 million in bonds for higher education, special schools, and tribal schools.


North Carolina

After several court battles over the proposed ballot measures, North Carolina will have the ability to vote on six measures including the Cap Maximum State Income Tax Amendment that would change the cap on state’s income tax from 10 percent to 7 percent. Voters also will decide on the Require Photographic ID to Vote amendment that would require individuals to show photographic identification to a poll-worker before they can vote in person. The ID requirement does not apply to absentee voting.



State Question 800 is tied to OK2320, a strategic vision plan by the State Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma Research Foundation to improve the state's business climate, workforce, quality of life, fiscal stability and innovation by 2030.

State Question 800: Oil and Gas Tax Revenue Investment Amendment (The Oklahoma Vision Fund) creates a budget stabilization fund to protect core services without raising taxes by setting aside 5 percent of the state's oil and gas revenue into the Oklahoma Vision Fund (OVF). Each year, 4 percent of the average money in the fund would be allocated to the state's general fund. According to the Tahlequah Daily Press, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill with language similar to that of SQ 800, but it was vetoed by Gov. Mary Fallin.



Measure 104 would require a three-fifths super-majority vote requirement to increase any taxes or increases in revenue. It defines "raising revenue" to include tax exemptions, credits and deductions and the creation or increase of taxes and fees.


Rhode Island

Question 1 would authorize $250 million in bonds over five years, with no more than $100 million issued in any one year, to fund school improvements and would leverage more money for districts to earn bonuses for projects that enhance science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Question 2 would issue $70 million in bonds for higher education facilities.

Question 3, titled “Green Economy and Clean Water” would authorize $47.3 million in bonds for environmental and recreational purposes.


South Dakota

Initiated Measure 25 would increase the excise tax on cigarettes from 76.5 mills to 126.5 mills, or about $1.53 per pack of 20 cigarettes to $2.53 per pack of 20 cigarettes. The measure would also increase the excise tax on wholesale tobacco products from 35 to 55 percent of the purchase price. In doing so, the increased revenues would create a postsecondary technical institute fund for the purposes of lowering student tuition and providing financial support to South Dakota postsecondary technical institutes.



Proposition 4: Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Commission Initiative would establish a commission to draw both congressional and legislative districts in the redistricting process. The commission would have seven members and require at least five members to approve between one and three maps that would be submitted to the state Supreme Court chief justice who would determine if the maps meet specific criteria. The approved plans would then be submitted to the legislature for approval.



Initiative 1631: Fee on Carbon Emissions Initiative  would impose pollution fees ($15 per metric ton of carbon in 2020, with the fee increasing $2 per metric ton each year until the 2035 carbon reduction goals are met) on certain large emitters of greenhouse gas pollutants based on rules determining carbon content, starting in 2020. A public board would supervise spending the revenues on reducing pollution, promoting clean energy, and addressing climate impacts to the environment and communities.


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