August 17, 2006

Direct Democracy and Tax Policy: Lessons from the States

2006 is shaping up to be another important year for direct democracy in the states, with ballot initiatives piling up in all the usual places. And tax changes (usually bad ones) are once again a big part of the mix. California voters will decide whether to hike the cigarette tax by $2.60 a pack to fund health care, and whether to impose a new tax on oil producers. In Oregon, a cleverly regressive high-end income tax cut will face the music. Meanwhile, South Dakota voters will have the opportunity to enact not one but four new tax cuts, and will weigh in on policy areas as diverse as property tax caps, cell phone taxes, video lottery and the cigarette tax.
We'll have more details on these initiatives in coming months (including a detailed look at the emergence of TABOR initiatives). But whatever happens this fall, it would be nice if lawmakers (and voters) took a good long look in the mirror and thought carefully about whether arcane tax policy matters are best decided by a vote of the people.


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