[OPINION] 2018 Arizona ballot measures in review

Evan Bolick

(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)

By Evan Bolick, Rose Law Group Litigator

My favorite part of election season is seeing how ballot propositions fare. I find that ballot votes provide much greater insight into the future of politics than can be gleaned from candidate races. For example, despite losing his race against Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke’s political future seems brighter than the candidate who defeated him. Politicians would do well to look at national trends to build their future campaigns.

The Democrat party, for example, is accused of having a muddled message that gives no insight into what it stands for. It would behoove the party to build platforms around the minimum wage and salvaging aspects of Obamacare, as even Republican-leaning states passed ballot measures adopting higher minimum wages and expanded medical coverage.

Similarly, the Republican party is firmly in power now, but may want to consider softening its stance on marijuana and the criminal justice system as voters across the country, including in blue states, have indicated through ballot propositions they increasingly favor legalization and reform.

With that in mind, let’s review Arizona’s ballot propositions and what they may mean to you.

* Proposition 125, the “pension reform” ballot proposition. This passed by a narrow margin. This proposition is part of a nationwide trend that is drastically reforming the workplace landscape. While more states, including Arizona in its past election, are demanding higher minimum wages, and generous pension systems are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Not only did 125 endeavor to get rid of debt-financing of public pensions for corrections officers, it scaled back the benefits that will be granted moving forward.

Remarkably this proposition received bipartisan support, with both parties likely recognizing the currently underfunded pension plan was unsustainable. This result will embolden not just state legislators, but also city and town council leaders, to take a hard look at public employee pension plans and take action to reform or renegotiate them.

*Proposition 126, the “no service tax” ballot proposition. This passed by handily, demonstrating people of all political persuasion enjoy a good tax cut. Arizona already exempted most service providers from paying transaction privilege taxes — essentially Arizona’s version of a sales tax — and this proposition expands upon the current scheme. Combined with the Trump tax cuts, more money should be flowing into your pockets. That stated, this likely would result in a marginal increase to the state’s debt, which admittedly is low. Too bad the same can’t be said of the federal debt.

* Proposition 127, the “renewable energy mandate” measure failed spectacularly, with a supermajority voting against it. Although many environmentalists may shudder at the rejection of this plan, they shouldn’t necessarily fret. Solar and other renewable energy currently exist in a competitive, decentralized marketplace. If the ballot measure had passed, renewable energy would have likely have centralized in the hands of the big utility companies. A flexible and nimble renewable energy market may ultimately grow even faster than it would otherwise under 127 as the big utilities will not be required to drastically construct new facilities or acquire new power sources. Utility rates should remain relatively stable.

* Proposition 305, the “education savings account” proposition was soundly rejected by a vast majority. Though Arizona is already one of the leaders in the school choice movement, it appears providing tax money for private school tuition is still a step too far for most in this state. Public or charter school attendees should not see any change because proposition’s defeat.. What the outcome does suggest, however, is that the Red for Ed movement still carries substantial sway, at least when it comes to matters pertaining to education and not as much power when it comes to impacting the election of individual candidates.

* Proposition 306, the “campaign funding” proposition. Political parties can no longer benefit as directly from taxpayer funds as they used to. This likely would result in less contested races in districts where one party has overwhelming voter support. Whether that is a net positive or negative is soundly in the eye of the beholder. Though not focused on as much, Proposition 306 may also reign in the controversy plaguing Arizona Corporation Commission elections, which have been plagued by dark money donors. More transparency in those elections is sorely needed and may now have been delivered.

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November 2018