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Ballot initiative_via the Olympia Report

Property taxes are the prime source of funding for school districts across the United States. But the homeowners who pay those taxes generally think those taxes are too high.

That tax concern was addressed yesterday, Nov. 7, in two states where voters made the ultimate decisions by their choices on ballot questions.

And the election results were not a surprise, even where they decided against property tax relief.

Coloradoans' complicated tax "no" vote: Colorado voters overwhelming rejected Proposition HH, a proposal by Democratic lawmakers to provide them property tax relief and boost school funding.

But Proposition HH was not nearly as simple as that general overview.

The Colorado measure was complicated by TABOR, the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. TABOR limits what revenue the state can collect, as well as mandates that excess funds be returned to residents as rebate checks.

Proposition HH would have directed some of those excess TABOR funds to local governments, allowing for property tax relief. However, that change would have lowered future tax rebate checks.

It also would have, for one year, replaced income-related rebate checks — those with higher incomes and higher tax payment get bigger rebates — with a flat amount for all eligible households.

Colorado voters apparently really like those rebates, and the current way of calculating them. Sixty percent of defeated the proposed TABOR changes.

It also looks like the proposition's advocates forgot a basic tax consideration. People really, really hate complicated tax matters, even when it might help them.

"Ultimately, people wanted simple property tax reform, and instead they came up with a 48-page bill that took away TABOR refunds without offering enough property tax relief," Michael Fields, president of Advance Colorado Action, which opposed Prop HH, told educational publication Chalkbeat Colorado.

Colorado voters did agree, however, to another education-connected tax measure. They approved Proposition II, which will allow the state to keep excess tobacco tax revenue, rather than refunding it to wholesalers and distributors, and then use that money for preschool programs.

Texas tax initiatives pass: Texans didn't have any qualms about approving an $18 billion property tax cut proposition. This ballot question's 83 percent approval was the largest margin of any of yesterday's successful initiatives; 13 of 14 on the ballot passed.

The overwhelming, and expected, yes votes mean the Lone Star State's constitution now will be amended to provide ways that will cut the real estate taxes homeowners pay. The tax relief will be accomplished largely by increasing the homestead tax exemption — that's the value of a property that won't count toward figuring its annual real estate taxes — from $40,000 to $100,000.

Texans also approved three other tax ballot questions. They are —

  • allowing cities and counties to exempt child care providers from property taxes on any facility used to run a child care business;
  • exempting medical and biomedical product manufacturers from property taxes on the value of equipment and inventory they hold; and
  • requiring voter approval on any legislative proposal to enact a wealth or net worth tax.

Ohio's notable votes, including one with a tax: Ohio voters got a lot of media attention last night when they approved adding the right of women to make reproductive decisions, including whether to get an abortion, to their state's constitution.

But they also made another social issue decision that includes taxes.

Ohio voters approved Issue 2, which legalizes purchases of cannabis for recreational or personal use. The cost of those transactions will include a 10 percent excise tax.

The Buckeye State is the 24th to legalize marijuana through a ballot measure. The voters' approval yesterday means almost 53 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state where marijuana is legal.

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