- - Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Voters are smarter than the politicians sometimes figure. Tuesday wasn’t a good day only for the men and women running for office under the Republican banner; it was a smashing day for lower taxes, responsible spending and government transparency as well. Ballot measures everywhere put economic policy to the ultimate test.

A stick-it-to-the-rich proposal on the ballot in Nevada would have imposed a 2 percent tax on businesses with more than $1 million in annual revenues. The money collected was to have been earmarked for public schools, but voters saw through the “for the children” ruse and realized increasing the cost of doing business by $750 million was a dumb thing to do in a stagnant economy. This big idea was thumped by a 4-to-1 margin on Tuesday.

Tennessee voters had the good judgment to amend the state constitution to forbid state and local governments from implementing an income tax. This will preserve Tennessee’s reputation as a good place to live and do business. Georgia has an income tax, so residents decided to minimize the damage politicians can do by voting 3-to-1 to cap the income-tax rate so that lawmakers will be powerless to raise it in the future.

Even blue states such as Massachusetts are warming to fiscal responsibility. Residents weary of living in a state nicknamed “Taxachusetts” repealed a law enacted last year that automatically raises the state gasoline tax every year by the inflation rate. They jettisoned a scheme to apply bottle-deposit fees to containers of water, juice, sports drinks and most other beverages.

Legislators in Maryland and Wisconsin have made raiding their state transportation funds to finance pet projects an annual rite of passage, so voters have fought back with constitutional amendments preventing a raid on fuel taxes and motor-registration fees to pad the general fund. The limitations garnered more than 80 percent of the vote.

The vote tallies were also big at the local level. In Cleveland and its suburb Maple Heights, Ohio, voters repudiated the city council’s decision to station automated highwaymen on every street corner. Ballot initiatives forbidding local officials from using revenue cameras passed by three-fourths of the vote. When the city council in St. Peters, Mo., refused to listen to constituents on the issue, the St. Charles County Council proposed a charter amendment prohibiting revenue speed cameras within the county limits — including St. Peters. It passed with 73 percent of the vote.

With the good judgment comes some bad. Direct democracy has drawbacks, such as the initiative adopted in the District of Columbia Tuesday to legalize marijuana. Even so, the nation is better off with a system in place to bypass stubborn politicians when they refuse to listen. Nothing better humbles an officeholder like putting his schemes on the ballot and seeing them rejected.

The big votes against President Obama’s candidates, and the broad support for tax limitations on the ballot, should encourage the new Republican majority to stick to limiting government as the route to unlimited prosperity.

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