Saturday, August 10, 2002

One of the ballot issues that people here in Missouri voted on was Proposition B, a set of taxes, worth close to $500 million for highway improvement. The had the requisite TV ad campaign while the anti-prop B people ran nothing. And when I say nothing, that means nothing, at least in the St. Louis market. The vote was 75%-25% against B, with one county (population 11,000) in favor of it.

The current spin with regards to this proposition losing so badly is that it represents a tide of angry voters in this presidential swing state. That may be, but it isn't clear as to whom that anger should be directed. Do the voters want to 'throw the bums out' as it were? About 90% of Congressional districts are considered to be 'safe'. This leaves the other 10%, which is still much greater than the narrow margin the GOP currently enjoys. But the question is - do the voters blame the current GOP Congress and make a Democratic majority? Or will right-wing hate radio blame the Democrats (specifically the Clinton schlong) and give the permanently-angry dittomonkeys control of the vote? It's not an easy question, given the increasingly right-wing mainstream media and the lack of a Mighty Wurlitzer stoking the anger of voters that don't lean rightward. It's not an easy question to answer, given that the proposition that went down so hard was one normally perceived to be a liberal issue.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering if this is a case of overanalysis. Missouri has some odd rules regarding tax increases because of the Hancock Amendment, (Missouri Constitution, Article X, Sections 16-24) which caps state revenue as a percentage of personal income. However, taxes that are passed as a result of a direct vote are not subject to the caps. (I'll add here that Mel Hancock tried a bit of chicanery to get another amendment passed making even these increases subject to the caps, which would in effect say that the people could never have any control over taxation. That didn't work.) Tax increases are written by the legislature and referred to the voters as a ballot proposition. Since Prop B was that unpalatable to the voters, I wonder how much of that was a result of anti-B forces in the legislature jiggering the language (like raising most of the revenue from a sales tax increase) to guarantee its failure. That is, is the Prop B failure really a bellwether for the coming election, or is this due to peculiarities in our own state?

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