While Tuesday's midterm elections signaled landmark political changes across the U.S., they also underscored some apparently pragmatic financial decisions by voters in several states, when it comes to local tax issues.

A ballot question to cut Massachusetts' sales tax by over 50% was defeated by voters there. Opponents of the measure claimed it would slash state revenues by $2.5 billion a year -- hurting public education, public safety and local economies. "By causing the sudden layoff of so many teachers, firefighters, police officers, social workers and others while we are still coping with a recession," says the Vote No on Question 3 website, "a cut of this size could halt -- or even reverse -- the state's economic recovery."

Californians approved Proposition 22, which "prohibits the state, even during a period of severe financial hardship, from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services."

Colorado Voters Defeat "Ugly Three"

And three controversial and highly-publicized measures in Colorado -- that would have cut property taxes, limited any new state borrowing and reduced a variety of state taxes and fees -- were soundly defeated. Opponents of the measures, which they dubbed the "Ugly Three" in their advertisements, reportedly spent nearly $7 million on their campaign -- while supporters raised just over $30,000.

In the midst of a recession, and at a time when the Tea Party slogan of "Taxed Enough Already" seems a clarion call for a growing number of voters, it may seem surprising that many communities are willing to keep their tax burdens at the status quo. But according to Dr. Bob McGowan, professor of management at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business, "we oftentimes short-change the voters. They're not as simple as they're made out to be. Today, with the Internet and technology, they're a lot more savvy [about] these issues than...used to be the case."

Voters Savvy About Tax Issues

Colorado's "Ugly Three" tax measures, he says, shows the electorate are willing to listen to well laid-out arguments against tax cuts. The Ugly Three's opponents "did a better job of getting out their message, of what the impact would be if people voted for those initiatives." he notes. "[Proponents] basically got out-managed on those issues."

Campaigns to cut taxes are hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, McGowan points to California's Proposition 13, the 1978 measure that limits property tax rates in the state, as the event responsible for much of the Golden State's current financial woes. "That was one of the first initiatives where a state capped property taxes," he says. "It was great when the economy was doing well, but with the added recession . . . it was like a double-whammy."

Exit polls from Tuesday say a lot more voters ages 65 and older took part in these elections compared to 2008 -- and McGowan wonders if the age issue was a factor with some these tax cut proposals."Historically, elderly citizens tend to vote down school bond issues," he says. "I'd love to see the demographic breakdown on these ballot initiatives."

McGowan expects taxes to remain a high-profile issue with voters during the next several election cycles, especially if the economy doesn't improve and more people start making hard financial choices. "The other issue too for a lot of these voters is 'what services am I willing to surrender?'" he says. "I do this in class; I say [to students] okay, what do you want to get rid of? It turns out there's always someone in the group that wants something. But when you start talking about cutting education, people say wait a minute, that means bigger class sizes, fewer teachers, consolidated schools and school districts. And when you start hitting them in that area, you start to get push-back."

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How to Buy a Car

How to get the best deal and buy a car with confidence.

View Course »

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

22 Comments

Filter by:
LongBeard40

Ya got that right , Voters want taxes eliminated , not cut ! Ya like paying bonusus ?...LOL

November 05 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
priority109

what else would you expecr from taxachusettes/assachusettes/mass_ole politicians---ROMNEY CARE crucified them budget wise and millions living there simply sat back and TOOK IT......mandatory health care which was just passed nationwide is based on this and ROMNEY the RINO stuck it to them. The people should have gotten together and shown THEM that they're not gonna take IT --same as the rest of us are doing. ----minimum of 22 states are REFUSING to play this game. They should have voted a resounding YES here as it's only a matter of time before all this garbage crashes and burns....so at least they'd get a break on nonfood items etc.

November 04 2010 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
the2431

Old Geezers and Non-Profits vote against tax cuts because they are worried that Pensions and Jobs are at risk if Taxpayers stop paying taxes that they depend on for Jobs and Retirement. Since taxpaying jobs are declining this makes the risk even more important to vote tax cuts down ! Federal, State and Local Government Employment plus school teachers, retired people, etc. get very nervous about tax cuts. With $ 77 Trillion in Public Debt all those dependent on taxes are not going to abide with any proposed reduction in Taxes ! ! ! Unless someone induces competition in Healthcare soon to lower costs...... America is doomed to a future of falling Incomes and Net Worth.

November 04 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
mullermugs32

I love the scare tactics as to why we can not live without less. Granted, we do need taxes, Mass should have cut their state sales taxes. Pa. has been struggling with one of the highest state rates and has been struggling to get businesses to come to Pa. And they still wonder why.

November 04 2010 at 1:46 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
12 replies to mullermugs32's comment
orbit7777

Why does AOL insist on having a bunch of liberal "journalists" reporting to people who can see straight through their garbage. No wonder the once great company is floundering these days and having to depend on those "simple" folks who keep on paying for "dial up" so they can remain in business.

November 04 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
rmerian

Typical liberal speak. Those who oppose tax cuts are "savy" voters and those who want less government are "simple." Notice the thousands of instances where people voted to reduce taxes goes unmentioned. I'm glad there are so many of us folks around.

November 04 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to rmerian's comment
rmerian

Us "simple" folks.

November 04 2010 at 11:04 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
billlballard

Here in Lubbock, Texas, the second most conservative city in the nation, the voters approved the largest bond proposal in the Lubbock School District's history, even after the District gave all teachers and administrators a raise in September!!! It appears, even in the most conservative areas in our country, the public sector unions cannot be stopped.

November 04 2010 at 12:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
philips0811

You forgot Washington State, where voters soundly defeated an income tax on "the rich", earners of 200K or more, and got rid of an existing tax on sodas. Washington State has slightly more sensible liberals.

November 04 2010 at 10:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
marine1942

Mass and California----both loosers

November 04 2010 at 8:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply