October 27, 2020 5:29PM

Marijuana on the Ballot

Recreational marijuana is now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia.

Four other states—Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota—have measures on the ballot in November to legalize recreational sales. Polls summarized by Ballotpedia show that Proposition 207 in Arizona, Initiative 190 in Montana, Question 1 in New Jersey, and Amendment A in South Dakota are all likely to pass.

One incentive for states to legalize marijuana is to raise tax revenues. Most of the states with legal recreational markets impose excise taxes on the retail price, which range from 10 percent to 37 percent. Numerous states impose taxes on growers, usually in addition to retail taxes. California, for example, imposes a 15 percent tax on the retail sales price plus taxes on growers based on plant weight. Illinois taxes marijuana based on THC content. Some states impose their regular retail sales taxes on top of these product‐​specific taxes.

Colorado has the longest experience with a legal recreational marijuana market. It imposes a 15 percent retail tax and a 15 percent wholesale tax on the product. In 2019, the state raised $263 million, which was 2.1 percent of the state’s general fund revenues. Total general fund revenues for the 50 states in 2020 were $913 billion, so if all states legalize recreational marijuana and raise relatively the same amount as Colorado, the total would be about $19 billion annually.

However, states should be careful not to impose heavy taxes or regulations on marijuana because that would harm industry entrepreneurs, suppress government revenues, and encourage the survival of a large black market. Marijuana demand is responsive to taxation. One empirical study found that the “medium‐​run elasticity of demand for marijuana is higher than the consensus estimates for cigarettes or gasoline.” Unfortunately, some states are imposing excessive taxes and regulations on marijuana and raising only a fraction of expected revenues while fueling black market sales.

How should marijuana tax revenues be used? One option is to use them to reduce corporate income taxes, which are highly inefficient sources of revenue. Another option is to use marijuana tax revenues to close today’s state budget gaps. Then, as the economy recovers, states could channel marijuana taxes into rainy day funds to help prepare for the next downturn. If a state raised about 2 percent of its general fund revenues from marijuana taxes, it could build a hefty rainy day fund over the next economic expansion.

How can the federal government help? It should normalize marijuana markets by removing the product from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, legalizing interstate commerce in the product, allowing for normal banking transactions for the industry, and allowing marijuana businesses to deduct expenses on tax returns as other businesses do. By legalizing the industry, the federal government would help state governments convert black markets to normal markets and boost state tax revenues.

October 27, 2020 2:13PM

Get a Warrant

Last week, the Supreme Court granted cert in a Fourth Amendment case, Lange v. California, that asks whether a police officer in “hot pursuit” of a suspected misdemeanant must get a warrant before entering the suspect’s home. That question turns out to be momentous for several reasons, two of which are obvious and one of which is less so but may be even more profound.

First, the vast majority of arrests in this country are for misdemeanors. Citing our friend Alexandra Natapoff, Lange’s cert petition notes that “[r]oughly thirteen million misdemeanor cases are filed each year, outnumbering felonies by four to one.” Indeed, as Prof. Natapoff documents in her wonderful book, Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal and in this interview, “[t]he misdemeanor system represents 80 percent of the state criminal dockets in this country.” Thus, contrary to Justice Souter’s misperception in one of the Supeme Court’s most important misdemeanor cases, Atwater v. City of Lago, we certainly are “confronting … an epidemic of unnecessary minor‐​offense arrests.” Moreover, as Prof. Natapoff and others have documented, arrests for even minor offenses can have devestating effects on people’s lives. Among other things, misdemeanors “are moneymakers for local jurisdictions,” and the fines, court fees, and other monetary penalties they impose can result in crushing debt and a cascading financial crisis from which it becomes impossible for many people to escape. Besides the direct financial implications, a misdemeanor conviction can have serious collateral consequences, including loss of employement, housing, and eligibility for various government benefits. In short, contrary to what you—or, perhaps more to the point, many judges—might think, a misdemeanor arrest is a really big deal.

Second, allowing police officers to storm into people’s houses unexpectedly is a terrible idea, as at least some judges have understood for several hundred years. As recounted in an amicus brief filed by the National Assocation of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), a 1757 case from England involved “a murder conviction of a man who reacted to a peace officer’s entry into his friend’s workshop by striking the officer dead with an ax.” As the judge in that case recognized, occupants must be told whether an officer barging into a home or office “cometh as not as a mere trespasser, but claiming to act under proper authority.” Fast forward two centuries to a case where an American plainclothes detective pried open the window of a rooming house to investigate a suspicious noise, startling the landlady, and we see Justice Robert Jackson presciently warning that “[m]any home‐​owners in this crime‐​beset city doubtless are armed. When a woman sees a strange man, in plain clothes, prying up her bedroom window and climbing in, her natural impulse would be to shoot [him].” If anything, this concern has only grown more acute as police have become more militarized and more people have chosen to exercise their constitutional right to own a gun at home for self defense. Underscoring that point, the NACDL’s amicus brief describes a number of hairraising incidents where police barged into a home without a warrant in “hot pursuit” of supsected misdemeanants—including a young man who relieved himself on a corner of his girlfriend’s outdoor patio—with sometimes tragic results. In short, there have always been compelling reasons to be extraordinarily careful about allowing armed agents of the state to come storming into people’s homes unannounced, even if they conflict with the government’s strong preference for volume and efficiency in the administration of criminal justice.

And that takes us to the third reason why Lange is such a compelling case and why it’s vital that the Supreme Court get it right. As I have argued elsewhere, one of the most important things to understand about our criminal justice system is the way it has moved from the essentially individualizaed, retail operation that the Founders envisioned to the industrial‐​scale, assembly‐​line operation it has become today. As Professors Chris Surprenant and Jason Brennan document in their new book, Injustice for All: How Financial Incentives Corrupted and Can Fix the US Criminal Justice System, “policing and punishment is big business in the United States.… All included, it is at least a $300‐​billion‐​a‐​year industry” employing some three million people whose jobs depend on keeping the entire pipeline—from arrest to incarceration—chock full at all times. And while felonies get the most attention, recall that there are four times as many arrests for misdemeanors. So is it reasonable to suppose that police officers, whose professional bread‐​and‐​butter is making misdemeanor arrests, would prefer a system that makes them as easy and hassle‐​free as possible? Of course it is.

Just consider the facts of the Lange case itself. The arrest arose out of Officer Aaron Weikert’s decision to pull Mr. Lange over for playing loud music and honking his horn. But instead of pulling over when Weikert activated his lights, Lange—who was nearing his home and says he did not see Weikert behind him—continued driving a few seconds, then turned into his driveway and parked in his detached garage. Weikert parked and walked up the driveway in time to stop the garage door from closing with his foot. He then entered the garage—without a warrant and without seeking consent—and began questioning Lange. Claiming he could smell alcohol on Lange’s breath, Weikert ordered Lange outside for a DUI investigaiton and ultimately charged him with driving under the influence.

Now ask yourself what would have happened if, as Lange urges in his cert petition, Officer Weikert had been required to obtain a search warrant before entering Lange’s garage in order to question him about his loud music and horn‐​honking. Most likely, Weikert would have considered it a waste of time—not just his own but particularly the judge’s—to apply for a warrant under the circumstances and would never have ended up questioning Lange in his garage that day.

This is key because so many encounters between police and citizens amount to fishing trips where police use a traffic infraction or other minor offense to ask incriminating questions, check for outstanding arrest warrants, or simply get a whiff of somebody’s car, backpack, or breath. And the longer police can prolong the encounter—long enough, say to get a probable‐​cause‐​creating (aka “drug‐​sniffing”) dog to the scene—the better their chances of making an arrest.

Indeed, much of modern criminal justice involves actors within the system simply following the path of least resistance, regardless of whether it makes society any better off. For example, marijuana arrests continue to outnumer arrests for violent crimes, even as clearance rates for homicides and other violent crimes plummet. Can there be any doubt that every single dollar spent arresting and processing people for simple marijuana possession would have been far better spent catching murderers, rapists, and armed robbers?

The truth is, we criminalize far too much conduct, with the result that police and other actors in the criminal justice system are asked to do too much have far too much opportunity to devote their efforts to activities that provide little social benefit but impose terrible costs on individuals—including humiliation, incaceration, and permanent financial ruin, to name but a few.

The constitutionally prescribed process of arresting, prosecuting, and convicting someone was deliberately designed to be cumbersome and expensive, and therefore not something to be undertaken lightly. But the government has been extraordinarily successful in hacking that process, in effect turning what was meant to be a social‐​utility‐​maximizing criminal justice system into an implacable conviction machine that gobbles up vast quantities of citizens and spits out convicts.

What are some of the ways the government has hacked the protections we were meant to enjoy?

One is by designing various legal frameworks—the traffic code at issue in the Lange case is a prime example—that make it practically impossible for ordinary citizens to go about their business without giving police some legal basis (even a purely pretextual one) to detain them and see if they can turn up evidence of any other infractions.

Another is by criminalizing vast amounts of non‐​morally‐​wrongful behavior that perfectly decent, otherwise law‐​abiding people wish to engage in, believe they have a right to engage in, and will continue to engage in despite the fact that it is illegal to do so. Examples include everything from wearing saggy pants, to growing the wrong not‐​particularly‐​harmful plant in your back yard, to owning the wrong kind of hunting rifle.

But the most significant hack—the one that represents the true sine qua non of mass incarceration—was when the government discovered how to streamline the cumbersome adjudicative process prescribed by the Constitution and drive the cost‐​per‐​criminal‐​conviction down from tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit to almost nothing. We refer to that hack as “plea bargaining,” but that’s an ignoble lie we tell ourselves in order to avoid confronting the fact that American‐​style plea bargaining has become pervasively coercive and is increasingly difficult to distinguish from the use of judicially sanctioned torture in pre‐​Enlightenment Europe to extract confessions from the guilty and innocent alike.

The bottom line is this: No one knows exactly how many people should be locked up at any given time. Given our penchant for overcriminalization, we can be confident that the correct number is fewer than the total number of “offenders”; but without some rational system for ensuring that the government only decides to go after people—and potentially ruin or even end their lives—when their conduct truly merits that response, our criminal‐​justice system will be driven more by the insatiable appetite of the conviction machine than by the best interests of society.

Our criminal justice system was designed to be relatively inefficent and to ensure the government would not bring that sanction to bear willy‐​nilly. Those are features, not bugs. Simply put, if the conduct at issue isn’t worth the time and effort of getting a warrant—or the expense and inconvenience of a jury trial—then maybe it’s not worth ruining somebody’s life over either. Let’s hope the Supreme Court sees it that way in Lange anyway.

October 27, 2020 12:26PM

Are Ideological Differences the Only Reason Republicans and Democrats Can’t Agree?

By Michael Bernstein and Emily Ekins

Political polarization is rapidly becoming one of the greatest public issues of our time. As the Pew Research Center has found, fewer Americans are taking centrist views while more are shifting toward the extremes. The consequences are dire: the Pew Research Center found that 73% of Americans say Republicans and Democrats “not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on basic facts.” And animus has turned personal; one PRRI study found that 35% of Republicans and 45% of Democrats would be very unhappy if their child married someone from the opposing party.

What accounts for this polarization? Are Americans just more divided over policies, like tax rates, abortion, and immigration? Or are we living in a more tribal era in which political attitudes are driven by partisan loyalties and animus toward opponents—regardless of the policy?

Some may recall when the Jimmy Kimmel show asked Hillary Clinton voters in 2016 if they supported a plan to cut corporate and estate taxes while telling them the plan was Clinton’s idea. The interviewees dutifully agreed, only to be told later that it was actually proposed by Trump rather than Clinton. Kimmel concluded, “It seems to me most people pick a candidate and go along with whatever that candidate says.”

So which is it? Do voters just pick a candidate and align their opinions with that person? Or do voters select candidates who best represent their policy views? One of us (Michael Bernstein) collaborated with psychologists Nick Zambrotta (University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth), Lauren Micalizzi (Brown University), and Scott Martin (Brigham Young University – Idaho) to find out.

The researchers recruited 195 college students across three universities asking their opinion about several policies from both the Obama and Trump administrations. (See Appendix A for further details.) While the context and specifics of various plans will always differ between two administrations, the researchers selected broad policies that apply to both presidents. The researchers randomly assigned whether students were told that the policy came from President Obama or President Trump.[i] But the policy description itself was identical between conditions. By only varying the president that each policy is attributed to, the researchers were able to examine how support for the same policies differ according to the person enacting them. Here’s what they found:

Read the rest of this post »
October 27, 2020 11:25AM

Sanctuary Cities Reduce Deportations Without Increasing Crime

How immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, affect crime has been the most salient immigration‐​related debate topic in America for many years. Trump began his 2015 quest for the Republican nomination by warning of Mexican illegal immigrant criminals. The 2015 killing of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant and subsequent other tragic high‐​profile murders have focused public and private scrutiny on how immigrants affect crime, lending seeming credence to Trump’s worries about an illegal immigrant crime wave.

Most central to this debate is whether sanctuary cities, shorthand for jurisdictions in the United States that limit their cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), result in higher crime rates. After all, the murder of Kate Steinle occurred in a sanctuary city and most illegal immigrants live in jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with ICE.

Empirically examining how sanctuary cities affect crime has been a tough nut to crack. The quality and completeness of crime data varies tremendously across jurisdictions, categorizing what counts as a sanctuary city is not as straight‐​forward as it seems, there are many different types of sanctuary policies that limit cooperation with ICE to different degrees, endogeneity can make causal claims difficult, the number of illegal immigrants within sanctuary jurisdictions is important but estimating their numbers in places with few people produces uncertain results, and many other problems bedevil this type of research.

As a result, my colleagues and I have recently focused on simpler ways to measure how immigrants affects crime and whether sanctuary policies have an impact on deportations and crime in particular areas.

A new paper by political scientist David K. Hausman closes the loop and convincingly shows that sanctuary city policies reduce deportations and don’t have an impact on crime. Using a difference in differences methodology, Hausman first shows that sanctuary policies reduce deportations from the jurisdictions that enact them. This is an important first step because if sanctuary policies had no effect on deportations then they couldn’t have any impact on crime. Hausman found that sanctuary policies reduce deportations by about one‐​third in the counties that adopted them. Interestingly, sanctuary policies reduced deportations of people without criminal convictions by about half.

Hausman’s second step was to see how sanctuary policies then affected crime. Using the same methods, he found no statistically significant effect on property crime rates, violent crime rates, or police clearance rates. In other words, sanctuary policies don’t reduce crime as some pro‐​immigration advocates claim nor do they increase crime as many immigration restrictionists claim.

Hausman’s work is the best so far on how sanctuary policies affect crime rates. More work should be done on this topic that extends over a longer period of time, but I doubt that any further studies will make such a large improvement in our understanding of sanctuary cities and crime.

Well done.

October 26, 2020 12:10PM

California Watch: 2020 November Ballot Initiatives

California’s ballot measures can be more than a little confusing. Commonly referred to by their numbers, and sometimes referencing previous propositions, even knowledgeable voters can be forgiven for having trouble keeping track of which proposition does what. Take this year’s Prop. 15, for instance: it would roll back 1978’s Prop. 13, which limited property taxes, and which is unrelated to March 2020’s Prop. 13, which would have authorized the state to issue bonds for schools. Some propositions are quite obscure: this year’s Prop. 23 deals with regulations for kidney dialysis clinics, and – believe it or not – this is the second time in two years that California voters will decide on an initiative about that industry.

There are, however, several measures on the November ballot that have direct implications on the work we’re doing at the Cato Project on Poverty and Inequality in California. Specifically, some of the measures relate to our work on housing, criminal justice, and economic inclusion issues. California’s ballot measures provide a unique insight into how voters in the Golden State are thinking about policy issues. It is no exaggeration to say that California’s ballot measures sometimes set the agenda for nationwide debates, as Prop. 13 did for the nationwide tax revolt. With this in mind, we have compiled an overview here of a few initiatives that are of particular interest to Cato’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California.

Proposition 15:

Proposition 15 requires many commercial properties to be taxed based on their market value. It aims to roll back 1978’s Proposition 13 (which capped yearly property tax increases at 2% and limited property taxes overall to 1% of a property’s purchase price) and introduce a “split roll” property tax system, which would split the treatment of commercial property from that of residential property for the purposes of tax reassessment. No matter how the numbers are calculated, Proposition 15 would be a significant tax increase for California businesses, with estimates between $7.5 billion and $12 billion. How much of the tax increase will be passed on to consumers is still up for debate. 40% of the increased tax revenues would go toward school districts and community colleges, hence supporters’ messaging touting the effect of increased school budgets. A notable point on this issue is that California’s recent school funding reform (the Local Control Funding Formula) shifted California’s schools farther than ever before from relying on property taxes for revenue.

Proposition 21:

Prop. 21 is in many ways the return of 2018’s Prop. 10. Prop. 10 would have repealed California’s Costa‐​Hawkins Act, which limits local governments’ authority to enact rent control measures. Prop. 21 is more narrowly‐​targeted than Prop. 10 was: it would continue to prevent rent control on newer housing units, and on housing units owned by individuals who own two or fewer units. Prop. 10 failed at the ballot box in a 65%-35% vote, but the legislature enacted AB 1482, which (among other provisions) capped yearly rent increases at 5% plus inflation or 10% overall, with a sunset of 2030. There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of rent control policies like AB 1482 and the laws that Prop. 21 would allow. Rent control is, like so many other policies, an example of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs: a study of San Francisco, for example, showed large benefits for covered renters but higher rents city‐​wide. Rent control makes it harder to operate as a landlord, and therefore would restrict the supply of rental housing, despite Prop. 21’s exemption of new housing from rent control.

Proposition 22:

Perhaps the biggest bill to go through California’s legislature in 2019 was AB 5. AB 5 dramatically limited the situations in which workers can be freelancers, as opposed to employees requiring benefits and minimum wages. While AB 5 was publicized as primarily targeting app‐​based rideshare workers, it has wide‐​ranging effects on industries such as newspapers to yoga instruction. In a notably measurable effect of regulation on the price of consumer goods and services, the price of yoga classes from one LA‐​area studio increased from $22 to $26. It’s notable, though, that Prop. 22 only affects app‐​based drivers – not the myriad other workers reclassified by AB 5. There is clearly an argument for creating new regulatory flexibility for the numerous workers who appreciate the flexibility of app‐​based or other freelance work, but Prop. 22 isn’t that far‐​reaching reform, except for in the rideshare industry. Angeleños can expect to pay more for yoga classes whether Prop. 22 passes or not, but whether they can take Uber or Lyft there likely hangs on the outcome of Prop. 22. There has been some policy discussion – often including too many buzzwords and jargon – about “the future of work,” with Gov. Newsom starting a commission on the subject. Both sides of the AB 5 debate will probably try to claim their side is that future.

Proposition 25:

Cash bail has long been a target for criminal justice reformers. California passed a law in 2018 that would eliminate cash bail and replace it with a risk assessment system, but the bail bond industry immediately pushed for a referendum to overturn the law. That referendum has become Proposition 25. In general, this reform could reduce the number of people who are incarcerated. It is clear that being in jail – even for a short period – can put or keep individuals in poverty. There are numerous questions about how California’s risk assessment system will work in practice; however, it’s clear that the current system of cash bail is deeply flawed: whether California’s changes will be determined by the voters.

October 23, 2020 2:20PM

How the Media Report on Preexisting Conditions

Health reporters have difficulty writing about preexisting conditions accurately.

This article, for example, commits a number of errors when it states: “About 54 million, or 27%, of U.S. adults under age 65 had a pre‐​existing condition in 2018 that would have rendered them uninsurable on the individual insurance market before Obamacare, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

  • First, it is not accurate to say those conditions were uninsurable on the individual market. The individual market could have insured maybe 99.99 percent of them with secure, long‐​term coverage. All that was necessary was that those individuals purchase coverage before those conditions manifested themselves. The reason the individual market didn’t is that the federal government, via the tax exclusion for employer‐​paid premiums, effectively penalizes those individuals if they purchased secure, long‐​term, individual‐​market coverage. So right there, the article is blaming the victim.
  • Second, the vast majority of those conditions were insured. Unfortunately, since they were insured through employer‐​sponsored insurance, it was short‐​term coverage that would last only as long as their relationship with the employer. When that relationship ends, so does the insurance. Crucially, what would have continued to be insured conditions on the individual market instead became uninsured and uninsurable preexisting conditions. This is not the fault of the individual market! It is a consequence of government penalizing people if they used the individual market. This error recurs when the article states, “Among those hurt most under the prior system were older adults who were laid off before age 65, who couldn’t find affordable coverage — or any coverage at all — to hold them over until they became eligible for Medicare.” The “system” that leaves these folks without coverage is not the individual market; it is the government. And it is not “prior.” With every passing day, federal tax policy is still turning otherwise‐​insurable conditions into uninsured and uninsurable preexisting conditions.
  • Third, ObamaCare does not make those conditions insurable. It uses coercion to subsidize them. There is a big difference. Insurance is the pooling of like risk. If a health loss has already occurred, it is no longer a risk; it is a loss. ObamaCare does not and cannot insure a health loss that has already materialized, any more than one can insure a building that has already burned or a car that has already crashed. Insurance aligns incentives so that people voluntarily pay the medical bills of complete strangers. ObamaCare attempts to pay people’s medical bills by forcing others to act against their own perceived economic self‐​interest (to buy coverage they don’t want, to pay inflated premiums, to pay higher taxes, etc.). That is not insurance. The incentives for people to defect from such coercive arrangements are far greater, which means far more patients fall through the cracks.

Additional problems appear in this sentence: “Rhetoric aside, Trump’s actions as president have actively undermined pre‐​existing condition protections, some experts say.”

  • First, it begins with “rhetoric aside” but ends by employing ideological rhetoric. The above links detail just some of the problems ObamaCare’s preexisting conditions provisions are creating for all enrollees, but particularly for very sick patients. It is therefore at best incomplete and at worst propaganda to refer to those provisions as “protections.” ObamaCare supporters call those provisions “protections” to hide that there are inherent tradeoffs, including higher premiums and lower‐​quality coverage. To call those provisions “protections” is to engage in card‐​stacking ideological rhetoric–i.e., to disseminate propaganda. A better, ideologically neutral term is “provisions.”
  • Second, speaking of neutrality, the article does not acknowledge that other researchers (ahem) argue Trump has expanded protections against preexisting conditions and done more to solve that (largely government‐​created) problem than Biden has. Allowing consumers and insurers to make full use of the exemption for short‐​term, limited duration plans can help save people from “the prior system,” which strips people of their coverage and leaves them with uninsured and uninsurable preexisting conditions. It can even save people in employer‐​sponsored plans from ending up with an uninsured and uninsurable preexisting condition. The article makes no mention of this feature of short‐​term plans.

Getting this stuff right is hard. The economics of preexisting conditions is complex. An even bigger challenge is that any reporter who wants to get it right will run into an buzzsaw of health policy wonks, reporters, and editors who will disagree with whatever they write.

October 23, 2020 12:52PM

Wealthy Donors and Tax Ballot Questions

Ryan Bourne and I examined the economics and politics of wealth inequality in this 2019 study. We considered whether the wealthy tilt our political system in a conservative direction, which many liberals worry about. We found that the political preferences of the wealthy are not much different than other Americans, and that plenty of top wealth is plowed into liberal causes.

That reality struck me in examining income, sales, and property tax measures on state ballots. Two‐​thirds of income and sales tax questions on ballots are for higher taxes, not lower taxes, and wealthy liberals often fund the tax‐​increase proposals. Funding by businesses and labor unions also play a large role in ballot battles over taxes.

Sometimes wealthy people campaign to raise taxes on the wealthy. In Illinois this year, billionaire J.B. Pritzker has given $57 million to support a ballot measure to replace the state’s flat income tax with a multi‐​rate system aimed at hitting high earners. Billionaire Kenneth Griffin has contributed $47 million to the campaign against passage.

More often, wealthy people campaign to raise taxes on the non‐​wealthy. In many states, they have pushed to raise sales taxes, carbon taxes, gas taxes, soda taxes, and cigarette taxes.

The following are some wealthy folks and their tax‐​increase efforts, with the dollar figures from Ballotpedia unless otherwise linked:

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, gave $7.1 million to support Proposition 15 in 2020 to raise California property taxes.
  • Stacy Schusterman gave $500,000 and Pat Stryker gave $250,000 in 2020 to support Proposition EE to raise Colorado cigarette taxes.
  • Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg each gave $1 million to support Initiative 1631 in 2018 to impose a carbon tax in Washington. The initiative failed.
  • Michael Bloomberg gave $2.1 million to oppose Measure 103 in 2018 to ban grocery taxes in Oregon. The measure failed.
  • Gail Miller gave $250,000 to support Question 1 in 2018 to raise Utah gas taxes. The question failed.
  • Merle Chambers and Judi Wagner each gave $100,000 to support Amendment 73 in 2018 to raise Colorado income taxes. The amendment failed.
  • Peter Kelley, Laura Arnold, John Arnold, and Menno van Wyk each gave more than $100,000 to support Initiative 732 in 2016 to impose a carbon tax in Washington. The initiative failed.
  • Stacy Schusterman gave $2 million, David Boren gave $462,000, and the George Kaiser foundation gave $350,000 to support Question 779 in 2016 to raise Oklahoma sales taxes. The question failed.
  • Tom Steyer gave $11.5 million and Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to support Proposition 56 in 2016 to raise California cigarette taxes. The proposition passed.
  • Tom Steyer gave $1.7 million to support Proposition 55 in 2016 to extend increases in California income taxes. The proposition passed.
  • Michael Bloomberg gave $18 million to support ballot measures in San Francisco and Oakland to raise soda taxes in 2016. John and Laura Arnold gave $3.3 million in support of the San Francisco measure. Both measures passed. Bloomberg has spent millions of dollars on soda tax efforts in other cities.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates gave $1 million to support Amendment 66 in 2013 to increase Colorado income taxes. The amendment failed.
  • Molly Munger gave $44 million to support Proposition 38 in 2012 to raise California income taxes. This campaign was remarkable in that total campaign spending was $48 million in favor and just $42,000 against, but the proposition failed with just 29 percent voting in favor.
  • Lance Armstrong gave $1.5 million and Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to support Proposition 29 in 2012 to increase California cigarette taxes. The proposition failed.
  • Tom Steyer gave $29.6 million to support Proposition 39 in 2012 to increase California business taxes. The proposition passed.

If you favor limited government, you may want to avoid living in states such as California because they are dominated by liberal politicians. But you may also want to avoid such states because they are home to wealthy liberal elites frequently pushing to raise state taxes. They often fail, but they keep on trying.

For further notes on some of these ballot measures, see Cato’s governor report cards.