Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan and I co-sponsored the 2/3-For-Taxes Constitutional Amendment Initiative this year and worked really hard for the past six months leading its signature drive. We recently announced that the effort fell short this time.
Initiative 1325 had a single goal: to let the voters decide on a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or majority vote of the people to raise taxes. That policy should sound very familiar: over the past 20 years, it’s been on the ballot five times and the voters have passed it five times. The last time it was on the ballot, in 2012, it passed in all 39 counties and received more votes than any initiative in state history. An astonishing 1.9 million voters overwhelmingly approved its tougher-to-raise-taxes policy.
Nonetheless, our initiative this year, which would have allowed the voters to enshrine the two-thirds policy permanently in our state constitution, didn’t qualify.
Does that mean the voters are now suddenly in favor of massive tax increases? Are voters salivating for a sky-high state income tax? Are they clamoring for household-budget-busting property tax increases? Job-killing business tax hikes? Regressive sales tax increases?
Of course not.
Not succeeding right away with an initiative policy is not unusual.
Over the past 16 years, we’ve often made several attempts on a broad array of issues: lowering car tab taxes (four attempts), limiting property taxes (four attempts), renewing Initiative 601’s fiscal policies (five attempts), improving transportation (three attempts), empowering the state auditor to conduct performance audits of government, protecting the initiative process and others. Some were successful, some weren’t.
But that’s how it works. There’s never a straight line to success in anything, especially politics. What separates the winners from the losers is how they respond to setbacks. Winners keep trying; losers give up. The only reason we’ve succeeded for so long is: one, we’re very persistent and two, the people have consistently demanded that tax increases must always be an absolute last resort.
We’re obviously disappointed in not qualifying our 2/3 Constitutional Amendment Initiative for the ballot. We wanted the citizens to have the chance to vote because we’re confident they’ll overwhelmingly support it — past elections and current polls prove it.
But since we didn’t qualify, our greatest concern now is that some in the Legislature will say that our initiative’s non-qualification was actually the people endorsing the idea of higher taxes.
That’d be a huge mistake.
Families are still struggling. Businesses are too. These are tough, tough times. State and local politicians must be constantly reminded that imposing higher taxes and fees will only make our bad economy worse. No government has ever taxed itself to prosperity.
When it comes to political advocacy, there are lots of ups and downs. The only way to survive and thrive is to embrace the grind and persevere. Through our initiative and legislative efforts, we will continue to fight for taxpayers by deterring the Legislature from making this bad situation worse by raising taxes.