Americans largely employed the politics of moderation as they voted on the more than 200 referendums on state ballots Tuesday. More referendums concerned finances than any other subject. Voters in California and Montana agreed to limit property taxes and, in Massachusetts, to cap state revenue growth. But Oregonians turned down efforts to reduce property taxes radically, as well as a plan to institute a state sales tax of 5 percent to finance various programs. Californians said no to a plan, widely watched, to cap state salaries; and Coloradans refused a proposal that would have banned all new state or local taxes, or the raising of existing ones, unless voters specifically approved.
Voters supported the status quo in several different subject areas. Oregonians turned down efforts to legalize the growing of marijuana for personal use. Despite a strong campaign by organized labor, Idaho retained its right-to-work law. As of this writing, in three of four states where the question was on the ballot - Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Oregon - voters were turning down referendums that would ban the use of public funds for abortions; in the fourth - Arkansas - the issue was at a virtual dead heat as the final returns trickled in.
In several states Americans showed their concern about environmental safety, and, in two cases, their willingness to spend money to bring it about. By wide margins voters in New York and New Jersey approved expensive bonds for cleaning up toxic waste; the cost is set at $1.2 billion in New York, $200 million in New Jersey. Massachusetts citizens said yes to a timetable for cleaning up the Bay State's waste sites. Californians forbad firms within their state from polluting water supplies with toxic wastes. And residents of the state of Washington approved a resolution protesting the federal government's selection of Hanford, Wash., as a possible dump site for radioactive wastes.
Californians faced two of this election's most emotional issues - AIDS and English. By 2 to 1 they turned down the AIDS proposal, sponsored by backers of maverick politician Lyndon LaRouche, which would have required identification of all persons found to have the disease AIDS, would have barred them from food-handling positions, and might have led to their quarantine. On this issue voters supported positions taken by civil libertarians and the medical community, among others.
By a similarly large margin Californians approved the measure that makes English the state's official language, despite opposition from civil libertarians and Hispanic leaders who are concerned the measure reflects fear of the growing number of Hispanics in California and might increasingly disadvantage them.
Five of the six states considering lotteries approved the idea - Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Montana and South Dakota. North Dakota turned it down.
Florida voters rejected a proposal that would have allowed individual counties to offer casino gambling.
One of the more unusual referendums occurred in Massachusetts: by nearly 3 to 1 the predominantly black Roxbury area voted down a proposal to secede from Boston. The measure, which was not binding, would have urged the state legislature to permit the area to be incorporated as a separate city, named Mandela after the jailed black South African leader, Nelson Mandela.
In Vermont a proposal to introduce a state Equal Rights Amendment was trailing, by a narrow margin, at this writing.
Two referendums were held on whether to repeal mandatory seat-belt laws, many of which have been passed by state legislatures in recent months. Nebraskans decided to retain their law, but Massachusetts voters overturned theirs.
Kansans approved a constitutional amendment that gives counties the option of allowing liquor to be sold by the drink.