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Despite what they say, voters in Oklahoma and elsewhere favor local taxes

By HANNAH DREIER, Associated Press Published: November 15, 2012

And while a slew of voter-approved tax increases in a state such as California, where progressives have a stranglehold on politics at all levels, may not come as a shock, similar behavior in more conservative places is perhaps more telling.

Residents in Baldwin County, Ala., described as “very conservative” by school Superintendent Alan Lee, voted by nearly a two-thirds margin to renew a 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax for schools. Lee had threatened to close schools, eliminate hundreds of positions and cancel athletic programs if the tax renewal failed.

In Oklahoma, voters easily approved more than a dozen increases in local sales or property taxes. In the conservative Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, voters endorsed both property and sales tax increases to help fund parks and recreational facilities.

Ohio voters approved all 15 local library funding measures before them and passed 55 percent of the proposed school tax hikes, a slight improvement over last year's passage rate, according to the Ohio School Boards Association.

Even El Paso County, Colo., the birthplace of the state's famed Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, which requires voters to sign off on even the smallest increases, last week decided to raise local taxes to fund the sheriff's department.”

In California, Sacramento voters, who tend to be more conservative than other areas of the state, supported a sales tax hike by a 2-to-1 ratio in addition to two school construction bonds.

“That's a pretty clear choice of the people,” City Councilman Darrell Fong said. “They don't want to see a reduction in service, especially when it is to public safety and parks. They know we've made the cuts already.”

A solid majority of voters across the state backed the Democratic governor's budget-balancing Proposition 30, which will raise income taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year and boost the state sales tax by a quarter-cent.

Roy Ulrich, who teaches tax policy at the University of California, Berkeley, says such results mark a tipping point long in the making.

“It's really remarkable that people are beginning to raise their own taxes,” he said. “The face of the electorate is changing considerably. It's not the end, but it's the beginning of the end of the tax revolt.”


Associated Press writers Judy Lin in Sacramento, Phillip Rawls in Montgomery, Ala., and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio, and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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