CHICAGO -- As Democrats took back the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans built on their majority in the U.S. Senate, several state elections allowed voters to decide the future of fuel taxes, minimum wage, marijuana use and local taxes on sugary beverages.
Here's a look at how those referenda played out ...
Fuel and carbon taxes
California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed the recent 12-cent-per-gallon (CPG) increase to the state’s gas tax, the Los Angeles Times reported. Proposition 6 would have repealed the increase, which Gov. Jerry Brown had signed into law in April 2017, and would have also required the state to get voter approval for future gas-tax increases. Fifty-five percent voted no on the repeal.
A majority of Missouri voters, meanwhile—or 54%—rejected a ballot proposal to increase the state gasoline tax by 10 CPG, according to The Kansas City Star. Proposition D would have raised the gas tax from 17 to 27 CPG over four years, and created a road project fund. It was projected to raise $288 million for the highway patrol and $123 million for municipalities’ road construction. The gas tax has not increased since 1996.
In Utah, voters widely rejected a proposed 10-CPG increase to the state's gas tax to raise funds for education, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The ballot question was nonbinding, but legislators said they would have enacted the gas-tax increase if most voters supported it.
And what would have been the first carbon tax in the United States was expected to fail in Washington, according to Reuters. The Carbon Emissions Fee and Revenue Allocation Initiative, or Initiative 1631, would have levied a $15 fee on each metric ton of carbon emissions, which would have risen $2 per year until the state met its 2035 emissions goal. As of press time, more than 56% of voters had voted “no” on the initiative.
Voters in Arkansas and Missouri voters approved increases to their state minimum wages in Tuesday's election.
With 68% voter approval, Arkansas voted to increase the state’s current minimum wage of $8.50 an hour to $9.25 on Jan. 1, 2019; to $10 on Jan. 1, 2020; and to $11 on Jan. 1, 2021, according to a Washington Post report. The initiative is expected to result in one-quarter of the state’s workers getting a raise.
Missouri voters approved a gradual increase of the state’s $7.85 an hour minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next five years, which is expected to result in more than 675,000 workers getting a raise. Sixty-one percent of voters favored the measure.
Tobacco taxes and marijuana legalization
Voters in South Dakota killed a proposal to raise cigarette taxes from $1 to $2.53 per pack and another to raise the tax on other tobacco products (OTP) from 35% to 55%. Voters in Michigan, Missouri and Utah all passed measures relating to marijuana, according to the Tax Foundation, Washington, D.C.
Michigan became the 10th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana and levied a 10% sales tax on it by a vote of 55.8% to 44.2%, while voters in Missouri and Utah both passed measures to legalize medical uses of pot.
In Missouri, voters approved of medical use of marijuana and levied a 4% tax on it by a margin of 65.5% to 34.5%. And in Utah, medical use passed 53.2% to 46.8%, with an exemption on sales tax but a fee to cover state costs.
Sugary drink and grocery taxes
Voters in Washington and Oregon both weighed proposals to prohibit local taxes on groceries, including sugary beverages. Washington Initiative 1634, or the Prohibit Local Taxes on Groceries measure, would prohibit local governments from imposing a tax on groceries. As of Nov. 7, a final vote was not announced, although the initiative was leading with nearly 55% of the vote, according to Ballotpedia. The measure would not reverse the city of Seattle's 1.75-cents-per-ounce sweetened-beverage tax, but it would prevent any future increases there or in other cities, The Seattle Times reported.
And Oregon Measure 103, the Ban Tax on Groceries Initiative, would add a constitutional amendment to prohibit state and local governments from enacting grocery taxes. As of press time, nearly 58% of voters had rejected the measure.
Both proposals had the support of the American Beverage Association and carbonated soft drink (CSD) manufacturers, NBC News reported. Spokesperson William Dermody said the CSD industry, in supporting the ballot measures, is “standing up for small business and working families,” and argued that taxes on CSDs and groceries “are harmful; they raise prices and they cost jobs.”