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CEO DATELINE – Associations spend millions to support, oppose state ballot measures

Nov. 5, 2018
By Walt Williams

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Voters in 37 states will decide the fate of 155 ballot issues this election season on topics ranging from food taxes to energy development, and associations are spending millions of dollars to influence the outcomes.

The website Ballotpedia reported that this year’s round of state ballot measures fall into eight broad categories. Among them are eight measures to restrict taxes, but the two receiving the most attention are separate measures in Washington and Oregon that would prevent local municipalities from imposing new or increased taxes on groceries.

The American Beverage Association is the lead driver behind the grocery tax initiatives, which the beverage industry is using to prevent local governments from taxing sugary beverages. So far groups supporting the measure have spent $25 million on the effort, the New York Times reported.

Energy policy is the focus of four ballot measures. A pair of dueling ballot issues concerning oil and gas drilling in Colorado have generated a record $40 million in campaign spending for and against the measures, according to news reports. One measure would increase the minimum distance between occupied building and drilling operations. The other would require oil and gas companies be compensated for state regulations affecting their businesses.

Another energy-related ballot issue measure being closely watched by political observers is a Washington measure to create a $15 per metric ton fee on carbon emissions. If passed, Washington would become the first state in the nation to essentially enact a carbon tax, although supporters of the measure insist it is a “fee” and not a “tax.” Among the opponents is the Western State Petroleum Association, which said the proposed law would have “a negligible impact on mitigating climate change but could have a significant negative impact on our state’s businesses.”

Several states have ballots measures concerning health care, many of them regarding Medicaid expansion.
Other ballot issues this year include:

  • Seven states have measures asking to either legalize recreational marijuana or expand the use of the drug for medicinal uses.
  • Voters in Arkansas and Missouri are being asked to raise the state minimum wage.
  • A ballot issue in California would outlaw egg-laying chickens from being kept in cages after 2022.  The National Association of Egg Farmers opposes the measure.