Proposition 13-type measures on ballots in nine states
Boston — Once well-honed tax cleavers are being wielded anew, although perhaps with less certainly. But boosters of Proposition 13-type measures are no less determined to cut state and local government revenues to the bone.
Tax-chopping measures of various types, including several Proposition 13-type measures, will be on primary or regular election ballots this fall in nine states -- Alska, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and South Dakota.
And in another state, Iowa, where the question is whether to call a constitutional convention, spending-curb advocates are hoping to use this approach to achieve their goal.
While outwardly optimistic concerning their prospects for ballot victories, tax-cut and spending-limit activists are apprehensive over the potential impact of a well-organized opposition, especially by public-employee unions bent on preserving jobs.
In Massachusetts a coalition out to block approval of a prosposition 13-style initiative law is expected to outspend, perhaps considerably, those pushing for it through a "yes" vote Nov. 4
Unlike similar measures on the ballots in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, And South Dakota, which would slash property taxes to 1 percent of full market value, the Massachusetts initiative would limit taxation to 2 1/2 percent of the market value of all property. It also would cut the motor vehicle excise tax by more than half.
Competing with the so-called Proposition 2 1/2 on the Massachusetts ballots is a teachers union-sponsored referendum which would tie state and local tax growth to a fixed percentage of the state's personal income increase and boost the Commonwealth's share of pub lic school funding to 50 percent. It now stands at about 33 percent.
Because of the conflicting intent of the Massachusetts measures, should each receive majority support only the one getting the most votes would become law.
A similar situation exists in Michigan, where tow tax-cut referendums are competing. One is a proposition 13-type initiative petition pushed by a group led by Robert Tisch. the state's counterpart to California's Howard Jarvis. It would cut property assessments to one-half their 1978 level. At the same time, state lawmakers would be forbidden from imposing new or increased levies to make up for the loss of revenue unless such legislation were approved by 60 percent of Michigan's registered voters at the next state election.
This, in effect, would wipe out a constitutional amendment, approved two years ago, allowing state spending up to 19 percent of statewide total personal income.
The alternative measure, crafted by aides leaders of the Democratic-controlled legislature, calls for a shifting of much of the tax burden from property to other revenue sources.
Every homeowner would be given an exemption from taxes on the first $14,200 of the full cash value of his dwelling. This would amount to an average annual savings of $350.
To compensate municipal governments for the estimated $800 million in lost revenue, funds would be provided through a 1.5 percent boost in Michigan's current 4 percent limited sales tax.
A second legislature-backed measure on the Nov. 4 ballot embraces a temporary three-year boost in the personal income tax from the current 4.6 percent to 4.7 percent to finance construction and operation of new or expanded prisons.
Michigan voters also will decide on a proposed substantial shift of the local government portion of public school funding to the state. The teachers union-pushed measure also would require equal per pupil spending in all communities. The additional funding would come from hiking the state income tax to 6.6 percent.
In Nevada the issue is granting a constitution-required second approval of a property tax reduction, patterned after California's Proposition 13. Two years ago the measure received initial voter endorsement.
The Arizona, Oregon, and South Dakota proposals would limit property assessments to 1 percent of full market value. In Arizona, however, the Legislature could, by two-thirds vote, override the limit. And in South Dakota any community could exceed the revenue cap if two-thirds of all registered voters, not merely those who go to the polls, favored it.
Although also dealing with property taxes, the Florida referendum, which is on that state's Oct. 7 primary runoff ballot, deals exclusively with exemptions. It would forgive homeowners real estate taxes on up to 25 percent of total market value by 1984.
The tax-related ballot questions in Alaska and Montana involve only state taxes.
Whether to tie state revenues to a fixed percentage of statewide personal income is the issue in Montana.
Alaskans will decide whether to slash the state's income tax from the present 3 percent to 1 percent. involved is an estimated revenue reduction of in excess of $350 million.
For the first time since Proposition 13 unleashed a national tax-cut trend, there will be no tax-related questions on California's November ballot.
Nineteen states, including five where new or tougher property tax rollbacks are before voters this fall, have imposed, either through law or by amending their constitutions, some form of spending or tax curbs over the past four years. They are Arizona, California, Colorado, idaho, Iowa Louisiana, Minnesota , Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.