All across the country yesterday, parents and voters had a chance to decide on several dozen ballot initiatives that spanned from education funding to Medicaid expansion. These initiatives, as we previously laid out, have a direct impact on the quality of children’s lives in the country. Well, the results are in and, for the most part, parents won big. Ballot initiatives passed that expanded health care initiatives in three states, rejected voucher programs in Arizona, and approved millions and millions of dollars in school education bonds. To know how your state fared in the fight for kids’ rights, here’s a handy list of all the initiatives that were and were not passed — and what it means for you.
Proposition 305: School Vouchers
Arizona voters rejected Proposition 305, which would have expanded the school voucher system in the state. The program that would have been expanded if approved, the Empowerment Scholarship Account, would have allowed certain students from poor-performing schools to receive public money and spend that money on private or charter school tuition as well as other educational costs. Voters in The Grand Canyon State rejected the proposition, which was placed on the ballot by educators who received enough signatures on the petition to put it on the ballot, and instead voted to keep hundreds of millions of dollars within the public school system.
Proposition 4, Children’s Hospital Bonds Initiative
California voters approved Proposition 4, a ballot initiative that will expand funding of Children’s hospitals in the state through bonds. Specifically, the initiative authorized $1.5 billion in bond lending to improve the infrastructure and medical services at 13 hospitals. It won by a landslide.
Amendment 73, Establish Income Tax Brackets And Raise Taxes for Education Initiative
Colorado voters rejected Amendment 73, a tax measure that would have increased public school funding by $1.5 billion in bonds and $1.6 billion in statewide taxes. That measure was supported by educators who argued that the state, which spends $2,000 less per student than the national average, is doing well economically and could afford to give some of that windfall to education. In some areas of Colorado, this is a particularly hard loss. The state adds 10,000 students per year. With aging buildings and growing class sizes, the funding would have been well-used.
Amendment 5, Two-Thirds Vote of Legislature to Increase Taxes or Fees Amendment
Florida voters approved Amendment 5, which requires a supermajority (more than two-thirds of the vote) to raise revenue in the state. This is unfortunate – supermajority requirements tend to starve any tax increases in the states, which can hit education funding particularly hard. This happened in Oklahoma and led to some of the worst teaching conditions and teacher pay in the country. Requiring anything more than a simple majority in a red state to raise revenue will mean that revenue won’t be raised. It’s that simple.
Amendment 1, Portion of Revenue from Outdoor Recreation Equipment Dedicated to Land Conservation Fund Amendment
Amendment 1 was approved in a near-landslide by Georgia voters and will divert some revenue from sales of outdoor recreation equipment to go into a conservation trust fund that would help keep state parks open, provide funding for clean water, help ensure access to that water for kids, and protect the land of Georgia in general. That this won in a landslide shows that caring about the environment is not something that falls along political lines.
Amendment 5, Schools Sales Tax Referendums Amendment
Amendment 5, a school tax referendum that would allow schools to call a referendum on a sales tax of one percent for five years, passed. That sales tax already exists. The problem is, however, that in some areas in Georgia, separate school systems fight about how to split that sales tax money. This amendment passing means that school systems, if they can’t agree on how to spend this money, will have to put up their funding to a vote, meaning parents will have more control over education funding in their area.
Proposition 2, Medicaid Expansion Initiative
Idaho voters approved a Medicaid expansion initiative in the state. This is great news. The expansion initiative passed with more than 60 percent of the vote and means that people under age 65 who make up to 138 percent of the federal policy qualify for Medicaid coverage in the state. This can be particularly helpful if any of those people have kids who are 22 or younger or have a severe disability, but it also means that parents don’t have to worry about their own insurance, or that if they were to lose their job, they would be uninsured. Medicaid in the state is also available to poor kids and pregnant women, which will make raising children a more affordable enterprise in the state of Idaho. The expansion signals that no matter political party, people care about affordable health care, and making sure that they and others have access to it.
Question 1, Payroll and Nonwage Income Taxes for Home Care Program Initiative
Question 1 was rejected by Maine voters last night. If passed, the initiative would have implemented an income tax surcharge that would help fund home care for elderly and disabled citizens of Maine. Maine has the second largest population of elderly people in the United States, and would have helped parents not make the tough decision between caring for their parents or working for their kids. Instead, many parents will have to shoulder the burden of both.
Question 1, Gambling Revenue Dedicated to Education Lockbox Amendment
Question 1 in Maryland was approved by voters last night, and in that approval, voters decided that tax revenue from casinos in the state should go to funding public education. This funding is particularly important because it will fund from pre-k through 12th grade. (Most public education funding is divided between early childcare programs and K-12). This means that a more consistent revenue stream will go into Pre-K programs and K-12 programs will have much-needed supplemental funding for their public schools. Hooray!
Question 3, Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto
Although it was expected, so it comes as no surprise, Mass voters passed Question 3, a ballot initiative that will uphold a pre-existing state law that protects transgender and nonbinary people in public areas including restrooms and locker rooms or other facilities that are divided by gender. For parents of kids in public schools who might identify as trans, this is huge news, meaning that the law is on the side of trans kids in the state.
LR-128, Property Tax for State University System Measure
Although not officially announced, it looks like Montana voters approved LR-128, a legislative referendum that enacts a $6 million tax on real estate and personal property with that revenue going right into the state university system, which amounts to some 20 million dollars in funding over the next ten years. As of this morning, the bill lead in votes by nearly 30 percent, so it looks like it will coast on through.
Parents: Likely Won!
Initiative 427, Medicaid Expansion Initiative
Nebraska voters approved Initiative 427, the Medicaid Expansion initiative on the ballot in the state. This vote was a direct rebuttal of Governor Ricketts, who, in his tenure, has made it harder for poor people to get health coverage — and shows that in a state as red as Nebraska, affordable healthcare and healthcare access still matters. The expansion is projected to bring an influx of 1.3 billion dollars in economic activity and nearly 11,000 jobs and will cover Nebraskans who are 65 years or younger and who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level or below, meaning more families and kids can get on insurance.
Question 2, Exempting Feminine Hygiene Products from Sales Tax
Question 2 was a vote that repealed the “pink tax” in the state — a luxury sales tax on essential health items like tampons and sanitary pads. Now, menstrual products are exempt from sales tax in the state, which will save women money and treat the products as mandatory health items like Band-Aids and prosthetics. This measure will also keep kids in school — poor girls in the state will not have to choose between their period and attending classes without fear or shame of menstrual bleeding.
Bond Question B, Public Libraries
New Mexico voters approved Bond Question B, funding public libraries. These funds will go to updating libraries in print and on-print resources, with furniture, internet equipment, and more. These are not just public libraries but also tribal ones and those in public schools, essentially giving kids better resources within their school building.
Bond Question C, School Buses
New Mexico voters approved 6 million dollars in bonds to go towards school bus improvement — in particular, equipping school buses with air-conditioning. Air-conditioning is important. School buses are important.
Bond Question D, Higher Education, Special Schools, and Tribal Schools
New Mexico voters approved Bond Question D, which would issue up to 136 million dollars in bonds for repairing, renovating and constructing new projects in high education facilities, tribal schools, and schools for the disabled.
Senate Bill 75, North Carolina Income Tax Cap Amendment
North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that would lower the maximum income tax on the state from 10 to seven percent, which opponents say could starve public education if that revenue is not made up in property or sales taxes. Otherwise, bet on education and public safety funding being cut in the state.
Ballot Measure 103, Ban Tax on Groceries Initiative
Oregon voters rejected a ballot measure that would have banned the government from being able to enact a tax on groceries in the state. Groceries are not a luxury item like denim and perfume; they are essential for parents of all tax brackets. Although this rejection does not mean that groceries will immediately be a taxable purchase, it does mean that in the future, taxes could be enacted on foodstuffs.
Ballot Measure 104, Definition of Raising Revenue for Three-Fifths Vote Requirement Initiative
Oregon voters also rejected a ballot measure that would have required a supermajority in each chamber of Oregon government to raise revenue in any way through the state, not just through taxes. This is great news. Oregon’s government will be able to raise taxes to improve infrastructure and fund public schools through simple majorities, therefore ensuring that education funding will not be starved completely in the state and has a fighting chance.
Amendment 1, Appointed Superintendent of Education Measure
South Carolina voters voted against Amendment 1, which would have changed the way superintendents come into power in the state. As it stands, voters decided to keep things the same and decided that they want to continue voting for their education superintendent, rather than allowing the governor appoint a superintendent to his cabinet, therefore making the education superintendent a non-electable position. This helps parents have a direct say in who will be in control of education in their state, and will make it a decision that is not necessarily politically motivated.
Question 1, School Buildings Bond Measure
Rhode Island voters unanimously approved question 1, which is a school buildings bond, putting increased funding into the improvement of Pre-K through 12 public-school facilities. In Rhode Island, where ahead of the votes reports surfaced of collapsing school ceilings, whole schools being shut down after a broken water main, and mice infestations, this money seems to be sorely needed.
Question 2, Higher Education Facilities Bond Measure
Rhode Island voters also ‘smashed’ that like button on Question 2, which will split $65 million in bonds funding between the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College to help renovate and construct new facilities at the university and address maintenance issues that have gone ignored.
Question 3, Environment, Recreation and Water Infrastructure Bond Measure
Rhode Island voters put their money where their mouth was it comes to the environment and approved nearly $76 million in investing in green economy measures and clean water programs in the state.
Nonbinding Opinion Question 1, 10 Cents Per Gallon Tax Increase for Education and Local Roads
Utah voters rejected an otherwise non-binding vote, Opinion Question 1, which would have measured support for an initiative to increase sales tax on gas in the state in order to fund roads and public schools in the state. Although even if it were passed it would not have been put into law — but it does gauge the level of interest Utah voters have in education funding, which doesn’t look like much interest at all.
Proposition 3, Medicaid Expansion Initiative
Through Prop 3, Utah voters approved a Medicaid expansion in the state and as a result, 150,000 more Utah citizens will be eligible for Medicaid, which, under the new expansion, includes people under 65 at 138 percent of the federal poverty or less. There are three million people who live in Utah — 150,000 more people on Medicaid amounts to some 4.8 percent of Utah citizens getting medical coverage. That’s huge — a 2016 estimate of uninsured in the state is upwards of 8.8 percent of Utah citizens, meaning that with the expansion, the rate of uninsured in the state will be cut in half. Parents who are eligible for the expansion can feel good about the fact that their healthcare coverage is neither dependent on employment and can help their kids get coverage, too.
Initiative 1634, Ban Tax on Groceries
Washington voters approved a measure that would ban cities and counties from placing new taxes on sodas and some groceries — however, that ban seems to apply to groceries that almost never include fresh foods, vegetables, or other meat items, and instead focuses on pre-packaged foodstuffs and sugary drinks. Opponents of the measure argued that, given the funding on this initiative from companies like Coca-Cola, this measure was masqueraded as one that had Washingtonians’ best interests in mind, but was instead a profit-grab from major soda companies. Others argued that this would protect local grocers and working class Washingtonians from regressive taxes that hurt their wallet over time.
Parents: … Won?