2020 State Ballot Initiatives Address Everything from Sales Tax to Business and Income Tax

Over the last few weeks, millions of American cast their votes in the 2020 General Election. While most of the talk has been centered around the presidential and key congressional races, state ballot initiatives—especially tax-related measures—will impact residents of those states, as well as the business that services them.

Election day this year saw a total of 19 state-wide, tax-related ballot initiatives across 12 states. And while the number of tax ballot initiatives often relates heavily to economic conditions, among other variables, it’s notable that the number for 2020 is consistent when compared to previous years. Some outliers include 2013, which saw only six tax ballot initiatives as compared to 2012 when 46 were included on state ballots.

What did this year’s list of tax measures look like? As you can see below, there were a wide variety of issue covered with the majority addressing property taxes; however, voters also faced questions around income tax, tobacco taxes and sales and business-related taxes.

Tax-Related Ballot Initiative Breakdown

  • Ten of the ballot measures addressed taxes on properties
  • Three were related to income tax rates
  • Two addressed tobacco taxes
  • The rest were single items addressing business-related taxes, sales tax rates, fees and surcharges and tax-increment financing (TIF)

2020 Tax-Related Initiatives

(Note that all results are unofficial until certified by the respective state’s board of elections)

Alaska Ballot Measure 1, North Slope Oil Production Tax Increase Initiative (2020) This measure proposes increasing taxes on oil production fields that (a) are located above 68 degrees north latitude in Alaska, which is an area known as the North Slope; (b) have a lifetime output of at least 400 million barrels of oil; and (c) had an output of at least 40,000 barrels per day in the preceding calendar year.
Results: With 86% of precincts reporting, 65% of voters said “no” to the new tax, but results are not final.

Arizona Proposition 208, Tax on Incomes Exceeding $250,000 for Teacher Salaries and Schools Initiative (2020) – The teacher salaries and schools initiative would do two things: First, it would enact a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax (4.50% in 2020), on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). Second, it would distribute the revenue from the 3.50% income tax to teacher and classroom support staff salaries, teacher mentoring and retention programs, career and technical education programs and the Arizona Teachers Academy.
Results: With 89% of precincts reporting, 52% voted “yes.” Much like the Alaska measure, the tally is not final.

Arkansas Issue 1, Transportation Sales Tax Continuation Amendment (2020) – This measure will continue a 0.5% sales tax, with revenue dedicated to state and local highways, roads and bridges, that would otherwise expire in 2023.
Results: Approved

California Proposition 15, Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative (2020) – This initiative would have created a constitutional amendment to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price.
Results: Rejected

California Proposition 19, Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment (2020) – A “yes” vote on this measure would create a constitutional amendment to do four things.

  • Allow eligible homeowners to transfer their tax assessments anywhere within the state and allow tax assessments to be transferred to a more expensive home with an upward adjustment;
  • Increase the number of times that persons over the age of 55 or with severe disabilities can transfer their tax assessments from one to three;
  • Require that inherited homes that are not used as principal residences, such as second homes or rentals, be reassessed at market value when transferred; and
  • Allocate additional revenue or net savings resulting from the ballot measure to wildfire agencies and counties. 

Results: Approved

Colorado Amendment B, Gallagher Amendment Repeal and Property Tax Assessment Rates Measure (2020) – This initiative would do four things related to the tax assessment of property taxes.

  • Repeal the Gallagher Amendment, which set residential and non-residential property tax assessment rates in the state constitution;
  • Allow the Colorado State Legislature to freeze property tax assessment rates at the current rates (7.15% for residential property and 29% for non-residential property); 
  • Allow the state legislature to provide for future property tax assessment rate decreases through state law; and 
  • Continue to require voter approval for rate increases due to TABOR.

Results: Approved

Colorado Proposition 116, Decrease Income Tax Rate from 4.63% to 4.55% Initiative (2020) – Approval of this initiatives means the state will decrease the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado.
Results: Approved

Colorado Proposition EE, Tobacco and E-Cigarette Tax Increase for Health and Education Programs Measure (2020) – This ballot measure would create a tax on nicotine products such as e-cigarettes, increase cigarette and tobacco taxes and dedicate revenues to various health and education programs.
Results: Approved

Florida Amendment 6, Homestead Property Tax Discount for Spouses of Deceased Veterans Amendment (2020) – This amendment would allow a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.
Results: Approved

Georgia Referendum A, Property Tax Exemption for Certain Charities Measure (2020) – This initiative will create an exemption from property taxes on property owned by a 501(c)(3) public charity if the property is owned exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes and the charity provides interest-free financing to the individual purchasing the home.
Results: Approved

Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment (2020) – This measure would repeal the state's constitutional requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and instead allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.
Results: Defeated

Louisiana Amendment 2, Include Oil and Gas Value in Tax Assessment of Wells Amendment (2020) – This amendment will allow the presence or production of oil or gas to be taken into account when determining the fair market value of an oil or gas well for ad valorem taxes.
Results: Approved

Louisiana Amendment 5, Payments in Lieu of Property Taxes Option Amendment (2020) – This initiative would amend the state constitution to authorize local governments to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with new or expanding manufacturing establishments and allow the manufacturing establishments to make payments to the taxing authority instead of paying property taxes.
Results: Defeated

Louisiana Amendment 6, Homestead Exemption Special Assessment Income Limit Amendment (2020) – This provision will amend the state constitution to increase the income threshold to qualify for the special assessment level for residential property owned by seniors and certain military and disabled persons. The threshold would go from $50,000 (adjusted annually for inflation since 2001) to $100,000 per year beginning in 2026 (adjusted annually for inflation).
Results: Approved

Nebraska Amendment 2, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Repayment Amendment (2020) – This initiative will create a constitutional amendment to increase the repayment period for tax increment financing from 15 to 20 years for areas where more than one-half of properties are designed as extremely blighted.
Results: Approved

Nebraska Initiative 431, Tax on Gambling at Racetracks Initiative (2020) – This measure will impose an annual tax of 20% on gross gambling revenue of licensed gaming operators. Tax revenue would be distributed as follows: 2.5% of tax revenue to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund, 2.5% to the General Fund, 70% to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund and 25% to the counties where gambling is authorized at licensed racetracks.
Results: Approved

New Jersey Public Question 2, Peacetime Veterans Eligible for Property Tax Deduction Amendment (2020) – This measure will create a constitutional amendment to make peacetime veterans eligible for a $250 property tax deduction.
Results: Approved

Oregon Measure 108, Tobacco and E-Cigarette Tax Increase for Health Programs Measure (2020) – This initiative will increase taxes on tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) to fund the state's Medical Assistance Program and other healthcare-related programs.
Results: Approved

Virginia Question 2, Motor Vehicle Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans Amendment (2020) – This provision will exempt one automobile or pickup truck from state and local property taxes for veterans who have a 100% service-connected, permanent and total disability.
Results: Approved

Washington Advisory Vote 32, Nonbinding Question on Carryout Bag Tax (2020) – This questions asks voters whether to continue levying a tax on certain carryout bags provided by retailers
Results: Defeated, voters recommended to repeal the measure.

Washington Advisory Vote 33, Nonbinding Question on Heavy Equipment Rental Tax (2020) – This question asks voters whether they want to continue levying a specific tax on heavy equipment rentals.
Results: Defeated, voters recommended to repeal the measure.

Washington Advisory Vote 34, Nonbinding Question on Business and Occupation Tax Rate Increase and Surcharge Decrease (2020) – This question asked voters whether the state should continue to a policy that increases the business and occupation tax rate and reduce certain surcharges.
Results: Defeated, voters recommended to repeal the measure.

Washington Advisory Vote 35, Nonbinding Question on Business and Occupation Tax Rate Increase on Commercial Airplane Manufacturers (2020) - This measure would increase the business and occupation tax rate on commercial airplane manufacturers.
Results: With 87 percent reporting, 54% voted no on the non-binding ballot question.

Blog Author

Michael J. Bernard, Chief Tax Officer – Transaction Tax at Vertex Inc. Vertex's Chief Tax Office (CTO) provides insight regarding the impact of tax regulations, policy, enforcement, and emerging technology trends on global tax department operations.

Michael J. Bernard

Vice President of Tax Content and Chief Tax Officer

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Michael Bernard is the Chief Tax Officer of Transaction Tax. In his role, he provides insight and thought leadership around tax department operations, U.S. indirect tax, tax risk management, and tax policy, as well as emerging tax trends. He is an executive-level tax attorney with a diverse portfolio of experience in corporate tax, administration, and finance, including a substantive knowledge of U.S. and international tax laws.

Prior to joining Vertex, Michael was in various tax leadership roles at Microsoft Corporation for 28 years, the most recent being Senior Director – Tax Counsel. Michael led teams in the following functional areas: direct and indirect tax controversy, sales and use, business license, property, tax IT, SOX, and telecommunications. He also co-led a corporate taxpayer advocacy group with the Washington Department of Revenue and was a Director on the Board of the Washington Research Council. Michael has also testified before administrative and lawmakers at both the federal and state level.

Michael earned both a J.D. and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Creighton University. He is a part-time lecturer of Law in the LLM program at the University of Washington School of Law. Michael also served on the board of directors, executive committee, and chaired committees for The Tax Executives Institute (TEI) for nearly 25 years.

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