Voters in several states agree to raise taxes to fund schools, other services

Fred Ransdell, right, and his wife, Marie, play bingo last week in Winters, Calif., where voters approved a measure that will double their taxes on utilities to help pay for an extra police officer and to keep a community center and a pool open. 

Associated Press

Fred Ransdell, right, and his wife, Marie, play bingo last week in Winters, Calif., where voters approved a measure that will double their taxes on utilities to help pay for an extra police officer and to keep a community center and a pool open. 

Raucous tea party rallies nationwide have been blanketed with signs reading "Taxed Enough Already," "Cut Taxes, Cut Government" and "We Make, They Take — No Socialism."

In an election year dominated by angry antigovernment and antitax rhetoric, local tax initiatives should have no chance of success.

But an Associated Press review of local election results found that voters agreed to raise taxes to help pay for schools, public safety and other services they believe are essential to their communities.

With states facing huge budget deficits, reduced aid to communities is leaving voters with a difficult choice: dig deeper into their own pockets or cut the services that most affect their lives.

"We're talking about funding services that are more tangible to voters, and what happens in the elections has a lot more to do with local realities than it does with anything happening on the national level," said Michael Coleman, fiscal policy adviser to the League of California Cities.

An AP review of 39 states found 2,387 revenue measures in 22 states where they appeared on local primary and special-election ballots this year. Voters in 19 states — or in 86 percent of those holding such elections — passed 50 percent or more of the local tax initiatives that came before them.

The types of taxes run the gamut. School district budgets in New York. Utility rate hikes in California. Sales tax increases in North Carolina. School construction bonds in Nebraska.

In many states, the pro-tax vote was overwhelming. Ohio voters approved 72 percent of 448 local tax measures. In Louisiana, voters passed 83 percent of 77 local tax questions. Voters in recession-ravaged and fiscally conservative Arizona approved 66 percent of the 30 local tax measures.

Kansas, Nebraska and Washington were among other states with high percentages of local tax measures passing.

But voters in some states were not accommodating.

In New Jersey, voters in April rejected 59 percent of 537 revenue-generating school budget proposals. It was the first time in 34 years that a majority of the state's school budget proposals were defeated.

In Illinois and Massachusetts, roughly 60 percent of local measures failed.

Write-ins flood Alaska Senate race

The number of write-in candidates for Alaska's U.S. Senate seat has swelled to about 150 amid an effort by conservatives to target the write-in candidacy of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who lost to tea-party backed Joe Miller in the Republican primary. The number by Thursday's write-in deadline had grown from just a handful earlier this week.

Confusion over tax cuts: The Obama administration has cut taxes for middle-class Americans, expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks and has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters, but most voters don't believe it. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26 found that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won't be recovered.

Jobless likely to shun election: With joblessness at 9.6 percent nationwide last month, the economy has emerged as a top issue. Yet many of those hurt most by the slow economy say they have no intention of going to the polls on Nov. 2. That's bad news for Democrats, who may see little reward after spending months pushing jobless-benefit extensions through Congress over Republican objections to their cost, said Cliff Zukin, a pollster at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who surveys the jobless.

Times wires

Voters in several states agree to raise taxes to fund schools, other services 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 11:47pm]

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