Taxes and moose -- just two of the issues on state election ballots
Boston — Should Ohio retain its 90 percent income tax boost? And should it raise the minimum age for drinking beer? Should Washington have a new commission to redistrict its lawmaking seats? Should moose hunting be banned in Maine?
These and several dozen other questions - many of them controversial - will be on Nov. 8 state and municipal ballots from Alabama to Alaska.
And a substantially bigger crop of proposals for voter consideration, including what could be a record number of initiative petitions, already is being cultivated for next year.
At least 149 such grass-roots measures either have qualified for 1984 statewide ballots or are being pushed, says Sue Thomas of the National Center for Initiative Review, based in Englewood, Colo. In addition, a large number of legislature-launched proposals can be expected.
This fall voters in 11 states and the District of Columbia will decide the fate of a broad range of proposals, including five initiative petitions and 48 legislature-referred measures.
Besides a broad range of constitutional and statutory changes, authorization for bonds totaling slightly more than $3 billion is at issue.
Of 14 borrowing proposals, the biggest are $1.5 billion in New York State for transportation projects, $700 million in Texas for veterans housing assistance, and $500 million for veterans housing in Alaska. The latter is the only question on a special statewide election, which is being financed with $1.1 million from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The agency is about to run out of funds for mortgage guarantees for veterans of the US armed services.
Particularly hard-fought among 1983 ballot issues are those in Ohio. Opponents of tax increases (on personal income and businesses) are seeking to repeal measures enacted last winter. If successful, the initiative would chop state revenue by an estimated $1.4 billion a year.
A second initiative would require a three-fifths vote in both legislative chambers for any future tax or revenue increases. A citizen group called SET (Stop Excessive Taxes) is organizing support for both proposals.
Opponents of the two initiatives brought to the ballot by voters warn that approval of either would create state financial problems, forcing spending restrictions and program cuts. Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governorship, say these are partisan moves to assure Republican lawmakers a tax veto power.
The initiative's boosters insist, however, that lawmakers still have power to set higher levies and that a requirement for 60 percent of lawmaker support is not unreasonable.
The third Ohio initiative would raise the drinking age for beer from 19 to 21 . It is spearheaded by Duane Somerville, a Methodist clergyman from Columbus and executive director of the Ohio Council on Alcoholism. The state's legal drinking age for all other types of liquor is already set at 21. Opposition is coming largely from the wholesale beer distributors.
In Maine, voter attention is focused on a proposal to outlaw moose hunting. Currently, under a controversial 1982 statute, hunters can shoot up to 1,000 of these protected animals each year during a six-day season. The pending ballot measure would restore a law that, prior to last year, was in effect for more than half a century, says John Cole, former editor of the Maine Times and now prime mover in SMOOSA (Save Maine's Only Official State Animal).
Stiff opposition, including television spots warning of problems related to overpopulation of moose, is coming from the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, with support from the National Rifle Association.
A preservationist group in Washington, D.C., has sponsored an initiative petition in hopes of saving what it says is one of the US capital's oldest structures. The Rhodes Tavern, a 31/2-story one-time inn built in 1799, was the unofficial seat of town government in the city's early years. The ballot proposal would block, at least temporarily, a developer's demolition plans and provide that a special mayoral commission determine if the landmark can be saved and, if so, the cost of restoration.
Alabama voters will decide the fate of a revised state constitution, replacing a much-amended document that has been in place since the turn of the century. A second 1983 ballot proposal there seeks to transfer ownership of the state dock at Mobile to the Florence-Lauderdale Port Authority.
In Mississippi, voters must decide whether to make two constitutional changes: to restrict jurisdiction of state Supreme Court judges to appellate matters, and to permit the leasing of up to three acres of public lands for church activities for up to 99 years.
Ballot proposals in Louisiana would (1) mandate the return of expropriated property, no longer needed for public use, to former owners and (2) restrict the use of state windfall revenues resulting from federal oil and natural gas deregulation.
In New Jersey, voter approval is being sought (1) to refinance the state debt without submitting the plan to voters each time, and (2) to extend from 10 days to 17 the time a governor has to act on measures passed by the Legislature.
New York voters, in addition to the transportation bond issue, will face ballot proposals to allow municipalities to borrow funds over their debt limit for sewage projects, to provide for temporary recall of retired state Supreme Court judges, and to authorize local governments to finance certain redevelopment projects.