Election 2014  
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Major Progressive Victories (and Some Defeats) in Ballot Measures Across the Country

From gay marriage to education funding to healthcare -- there were some huge policy issues Americans voted on.

Photo Credit: AFP


There was more at stake Tuesday than who will sit in the White House. Voters in 37 states with ballot initiatives and legislative referenda voted on 174 different proposals that ranged from overturning anti-union laws passed by Republican legislatures, to tax measures to fund schools, to legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, to upholding gay marriage, to ending the death penalty and labeling food with genetically modified ingredients.

Here's a rundown on the hottest topics on the state political frontlines.

1. Taxes

There are more tax questions on Tuesday’s state ballots than any other topic—31 in all. On the progressive side are revenue-raising measures to see if voters have had enough with years of budget cuts to schools and other needed state services. On the other side of the political spectrum are measures making it harder to raise taxes for public services.

California lead the way with two of the most controversial measures. Proposition 30, sponsored by Gov. Jerry Brown, would raise income taxes for earnings above $250,000 and the state sales tax by 0.25 percent for several years, to prevent further cuts to schools and other state services. With 64 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was slightly ahead, with 52.2 percent of voters backing it. If Brown’s measure passes, it would be a tremendous victory in a state that had faced legislative gridlock on tax issues.

The second California tax proposition, Proposition 38, sponsored by a wealthy lawyer who teamed up with education advocates, was soundly defeated. It would have raised income taxes to fund public schools.

In Arizona, voters defeated Prop. 204, which would have extended a 1 percent sales tax dedicated to public schools. In South Dakota, Initiated Measure 15, which splits a penny sales tax between schools and health care for the poor, appeared headed for defeat. Meanwhile, a Missouri measure raising tobacco taxes for health education had a very slim lead with less than two-thirds of precincts reporting, although local newspapers ran headlines saying it was headed for defeat.

On the other side of the political spectrum, anti-tax measures imposing severe revenue-raising restraints faced mixed results. In Washington, local news reports say voters passed I-1185, requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Anti-tax conservatives backed that measure. In Michigan, however, voters rejected a super-majority requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature or voters to raise taxes.

In Illinois, voters also rejected a proposal requiring a two-thirds legislative majority to increase pension benefits for public employees. That was seen as both a labor victory and defeat for fiscal conservatives.

2. Labor Unions

Like the Illinois pension proposal, there are other anti-union measures on state ballots. Most significant was California’s Proposition 32, which resurrected a proposal defeated in 1998 and 2005 that prohibited union dues from being used for political purposes without an individual member’s approval. It also would ban government contractors from donating to campaigns. It was headed for defeat, with only 45 percent of voters backing it, based on 64 percent of precincts reporting.

On the side of restoring union rights, Idaho teachers put three measures on the fall ballot: one to repeal a law limiting previously negotiated union contracts; another to repeal a new law tying teacher pay to student test scores; and a third that would repeal a law changing school funding formulas and requiring schools to provide computers and online courses. Based on incomplete returns, it appears that the trio was headed toward a big victory for teachers and public employee unions.

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