Four Ballot Measures the Political Establishment Hates

Some ballot measures are nearly unanimously hated by their state's political establishment, but might pass anyway. Here are four of them.
by | September 24, 2010

I think I'll continue on my ballot measure binge from yesterday. A genre of ballot measure occurred to me: The appealing-sounding idea that nearly the entire political establishment thinks is impractical and wrong-headed. These sorts of measures are the reason that most elected officials hate the initiative process. Here are four examples:

The MeasureColorado's Amendment 61, a constitutional amendment that would forbid Colorado's state government from borrowing money and restrict local governments' ability to borrow money.

The Appeal: For people concerned about government debt, this gets at the root cause of the problem. If you can't borrow, you can't go into debt.

The Surprising Opposition: You'd expect Democrats and aligned groups to oppose Amendment 61 and they do. But, it's also opposed by most of the Republicans in the state legislature. Plus, here's what the state's business lobby thinks, via the Denver Post:

"It's absolutely frightening," said Dan Pilcher, spokesman for the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. "It's hard to think of a worse dent being put in our business climate in terms of being able to recruit companies and keep ones here.

"It would be a financial tsunami for the business community," Pilcher said.

It would be worse, said Kelly Brough, president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "The difference is that a tsunami ends and you can start to rebuild after that," she said. "This would forever be part of our constitution. It would never end."

The Measure: Florida's Amendment 4. That's the "Hometown Democracy" measure, which would require a vote of the public before local governments could change their comprehensive land use plans.

The Appeal: Amendment 4 speaks to anyone who believes that Florida's economy, environment and quality-of-life have been wrecked by out-of-control growth. A new poll showsthe measure  with 2-1 support at 53%-26%. Remember that Florida legislators feared Hometown Democracy so much that they changed the standard for constitutional amendments to pass to 60% in 2006. That may be the only thing that stops voters from approving Amendment 4.

The Surprising Opposition: Amendment 4 isn't just opposed by developers and local governments. It's opposed by the reliably liberal St. Petersburg Times editorial board (and, it seems, every major editorial board in the state). It's also opposed by the Democratic nominee for governor, Alex Sink.

The Measure: Massachusetts' Question 3, which would lower the state sales tax from 6.25% to3%.

The Appeal: Who doesn't want lower taxes (especially when you don't have to make the hard choices of what spending to cut)? A new poll shows 51% support for Question 3.

The Surprising Opposition: Citing the huge hole Question 3 would open in the budget, every gubernatorial candidate on the ballot opposes it. That includes Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill, both of whom have courted conservatives. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce opposes the measure too. Even the state realtors' association declined to offer an endorsement and is instead staying neutral.

The Measure: Oklahoma's Question 744, which mandates that the state's per pupil education funding at least equal the average of Arkansas, Colorado,  Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas.  If it passes, Question 744 would replace a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that requires the state to spend at least $42 per student each year (maybe they should have indexed that one for inflation?).

The Appeal: Don't Oklahoma school children deserve as good an education as the children of Arkansas? That's the message from Oklahoma Education Association, which is pushing the proposal.

The Surprising Opposition: Predictably, other groups that compete for state dollars are against Question 744. But, so is Brad Henry, the state's Democratic governor who has made pushing for more education funding the hallmark of his tenure. From the Oklahoman:

"I care about the future of our state," said Henry, whose term expires in January and who is prohibited from seeking a third term. "And it's so important that I felt I simply had no choice but to get involved."

Approval of State Question 744 also would come at a time the state slowly is recovering from the economic recession, Henry said.

"I have major, major concerns about this proposal," he said. "If State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budgets of all other critical areas in state government, and we just simply cannot allow that to happen.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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