- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

We may never know who really won the presidential election, but we do know that Americans want lower taxes. Using the power of the ballot box, voters approved several important ballot initiatives that will result in substantial tax cuts. Perhaps even more importantly, the electorate tossed aside class warfare arguments, approving supply-side tax cuts by big margins.
The death tax is a good example. President Clinton vetoed a bipartisan bill to eliminate the federal death tax earlier this year, complaining that the so-called rich would benefit. To justify this decision, the White House constantly repeated the stale argument that the benefits of the tax cut would accrue to the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers.
The power of the veto pen was able to stop progress in Washington, but the rest of the United States has begun to act. In some states, lawmakers took the lead, repealing this odious remnant of the politics of envy. Policy-makers realized that the death tax made their states less attractive to entrepreneurs and job creators. Moreover, they understood that ordinary people suffer the most when a family-owned business has to shut down to pay this unfair example of double taxation.
Ordinary voters also understand this simple message. Consider what happened last week in Montana and South Dakota, states where voters were given the ability to decide whether to keep this controversial levy. In Montana, voters approved an initiative to repeal the death tax by a margin of 2-1. South Dakota voters were even more emphatic, sending their death tax to a well-deserved grave by nearly 80 percent of the vote.
The pro-tax forces may try to discredit these results by arguing that Montana and South Dakota are conservative states. There is some truth to this assertion, but they will have a hard time explaining what happened in Massachusetts. Voters in that state had the opportunity to vote on a proposal to reduce the state income tax rate from 5.95 percent today down to 5 percent in 2003.
Before giving the results, though, let us briefly explore whether Massachusetts is a conservative state. Al Gore bested George Bush in the state by 27 percentage points, 60-33. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, meanwhile, cruised to re-election, beating his Republican opponent by a staggering 73-13 margin. In the House of Representatives, Democrats won all 10 seats. Five Democrats did not even have Republican opposition, and Democrats won the contested races by rolling up more than 70 percent of the vote.
In other words, this state is so liberal that it makes the doctrinaire New York Times editorial page almost look reasonable by comparison. Yet the very same voters approved an across-the-board tax rate reduction with nearly 60 percent of the vote. They voted this way even though the Massachusetts media and public policy elite said that tax cuts were an irresponsible giveaway to the rich that would drain money from education and other budget priorities.
While the ballot initiatives in Montana, South Dakota, and Massachusetts were the most news-worthy tax proposals before the voters, taxpayers in other states also had the opportunity to vote such issues. South Carolina voters approved a reduction in the car tax. Oregon voters increased the amount of federal income tax that can be deducted on a state income tax return. Voters in the state of Washington approved a measure to limit yearly property tax increases.
The results of these referenda are important for two reasons. First, they show that voters like tax cuts, particularly supply-side tax cuts that reduce tax rates and eliminate double taxation. Politicians may not understand that it is important to increase incentives to work, save and invest, but people in the real world have no trouble grasping this basic concept.
It is quite likely, though, that these election results will be very important for another reason. When George W. Bush, if he becomes president, proposes early next year to implement his promises to repeal the death tax and reduce marginal tax rates, opponents will argue that he lacks a mandate. They will cite the near-even split of the popular vote and point to the disputed results in Florida to delegitimatize tax cuts.
When this happens, lawmakers simply should point out that voters when given the choice chose to cut taxes. Indeed, they voted to approve pro-growth tax cuts that are almost identical to those proposed by Mr. Bush.

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