The red wave turned out to be more of a red trickle, as Republicans underperformed in their effort to secure strong majorities in the U.S. Congress, and GOP attempts to claim governorships in states such as Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania failed.

But voters also cast ballots on initiatives and referenda. The Southwest Public Policy Institute tracked all the measures in our region, and sadly, of the six we followed most closely, four produced disappointing outcomes. Herewith are our thoughts on the results of our region’s direct democracy in 2022.

We’ll start with the wins. Passage of Proposition 121 means that Colorado’s flat income tax will decline from 4.55 percent to 4.40 percent, retroactive to the start of the year. Amazingly, three states to the west, California’s deep-blue population declined to hike taxes on “personal income over $2 million” in order to fund “rebates and other incentives for zero-emission vehicle purchases and … charging stations,” as well as “wildfire prevention and suppression programs.” Good call, and downright essential for the state to revive its sagging economy. As the Tax Foundation put it, “It is true that taxes are but one factor in business decision-making. Other concerns also matter — such as access to raw materials or infrastructure or a skilled labor pool — but a simple, sensible tax system can positively impact business operations with regard to these resources.”

Now, the losses. Lieutenant governors are pointless politicians, and seven states either dispense with them entirely, or limit the sinecures to appointed members of the legislature. But via Proposition 131, Arizona’s voters created the office. The last thing the Grand Canyon State needs is another politician.

New Mexico, unfortunately, continued to make profoundly unwise policy decisions. Voters in the Land of Enchantment overwhelmingly backed a boost in “early childhood education funding by almost $150 million a year.” According to the Heritage Foundation, the “bulk of the scientifically rigorous evaluations of preschool programs yield consistently negative findings: Any benefits fade out over time.” From nearly nothing a decade and a half ago, New Mexico now spends vast sums on “early childhood education and care.” Yet there is no evidence that such a massive “investment” has benefited the state’s children.

New Mexicans doubled down by allowing “public investment to provide access to essential household services, including internet, energy, water, wastewater and other similar services.” Unemployment benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing — the Land of Enchantment is addicted to welfare. And all that “public investment” has fostered, not obviated, severe socioeconomic pathologies. More welfare will hurt, not help, the state.

Finally, Nevada’s voters altered “the state constitution by removing the language that allows for a different minimum wage between workers — based on whether a company offers benefits — enshrining a $12 minimum wage in the constitution.” This blunder was made despite the substantial evidence that “a higher minimum wage reduces employment for the least-skilled while having little to no effect on poverty rates.”

In sum, encouraging news on taxes in Colorado and California, but steps backward in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Let’s hope voters choose better in 2024.

By D. Dowd Muska

Dowd brings nearly 30 years of research and writing experience to the Institute. A veteran of several think tanks, he is an expert on government at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels.

Raised on an apple orchard in the Connecticut River Valley, D. Dowd Muska is a researcher, writer, editor, and commentator. His focus is the nexus of fiscal policy, economic development, and technology.

Mr. Muska is the author of numerous policy studies, and his writing has appeared in newspapers throughout the nation, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Detroit News, the Orlando Sentinel, the Cape Cod Times, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Hartford Courant, the Waco Tribune-Herald, the Albuquerque Journal, the New Haven Register, and The Oklahoman. A graduate of The George Washington University, he lives in the Albuquerque metro area, but has started (very) early planning for a relocation to the Sierra Blanca in Lincoln County, New Mexico. He recently launched the Substack platform No Dowd About It.

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