State ballot measures: Voters will have a say on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and taxing the wealthy.



CNN

While Democrats in Congress have scuttled many of their progressive plans, left-wing advocates in multiple states hope to advance their causes at the ballot box.

Among the many initiatives that will be on the ballot on Tuesday are a number of measures related to health care and finance. Voters will decide to expand Medicaid in South Dakota, raise the minimum wage in Nebraska and Nevada, raise taxes. About the rich in California and Massachusetts and fighting medical debt in Arizona.

Americans face problems as inequality grows, said Kelly Hall, executive director of The Fairness Project, which sponsors some of the measures. Ballot initiatives aim to ease the burden on workers.

“That support is not coming from federal legislatures. It’s not coming from their state politicians,” he said. “And so whether it’s about the minimum wage, whether it’s expanding health care or restricting debt collection practices, people are starting to take these basic kitchen table issues into their own hands. are”.

Here’s a sampling of those ballot measures:

South Dakota voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid to about 42,500 residents starting in 2023.

It’s the seventh effort to expand Medicaid in Republican-led states, which began with Maine voter approval in 2017. Ballot initiatives were also successful in Missouri, Oklahoma, Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. All were sponsored by The Fairness Project.

More than 60 organizations — including the South Dakota Farmers Union, the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and several health care and religious groups — have endorsed Amendment D. It would open coverage to adults earning less than $19,000 a year.

Currently, childless adults are not eligible for Medicaid in South Dakota, and parents must have very low incomes, about $1,000 a month for a family of four.

By expanding Medicaid, South Dakota will receive an additional $328 million in federal funds in the first year and create 4,000 new jobs, according to Zach Marcus, campaign manager for Decide Healthcare of South Dakota, which is championing the ballot measure. The state Legislative Research Council found last year that the expansion would save South Dakota $162.5 million over five years.

Many Republican officials oppose the measure, citing potential future costs. States are responsible for receiving 10% of the health care bill for expansion enrollees.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, does not support the initiative, although she has said she will if voters approve. An expansion project failed in a state Senate vote earlier this year.

A recent South Dakota State University poll found that 53 percent of registered voters support the measure, with about 20 percent opposed and 27 percent undecided.

South Dakota is currently one of 12 states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid. The only other states where citizen-led ballot initiatives are possible are Florida and Wyoming, Hall said.

Nebraska voters will decide to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, up from $9 an hour today.

It would benefit about 150,000 workers, according to the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute, both left-leaning groups. About 75% of the workers are over 20 years old.

The measure will give those workers $2,100 more in pay, said Kate Wolfe, campaign manager for Raise the Wage Nebraska. More than 25 organizations and lawmakers are part of the coalition supporting Initiative 433, which is sponsored by the Fairness Project.

In 2014 voters approved a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016. The current campaign collected more than double the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot, Wolfe said.

Opponents, however, say the initiative would hurt state businesses and reduce job opportunities for young people.

“The proposed initiative increase is a 66.7 percent increase over four years,” Bud Synhorst, CEO of the Lincoln Independent Business Association, wrote in a local business publication last month. “It is a radical increase that will be felt throughout the economy.”

In Nevada, voters will have a say in a state constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024. The measure would also remove an existing provision that sets different minimum wage rates based on whether an employer offers certain health benefits.

Currently, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $12 an hour for workers without certain health benefits and $11 an hour for those who do. do it in 2024

Supporters of the initiative, Ballot Question 2, say workers should have a constitutional guarantee of a $12 an hour minimum wage, preventing lawmakers from lowering it in the future. Opponents say the change isn’t necessary because the state legislature already has the authority to raise the minimum wage.

California’s Proposition 30 would add a 1.75% surtax to people making more than $2 million a year. This is in addition to the highest state income tax rate (12.3%). It would raise $3.5 billion to $5 billion. Most of the funds would go to zero-emission vehicles and forest fire prevention and control.

The measure, however, is highly controversial, said Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

It’s largely sponsored by Lyft, which, like ride-sharing companies, is subject to another state rule requiring the use of mostly zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Opponents, including the state Republican Party, say the ballot measure is an attempt by Lyft. taxpayers to pay the company’s bill.

Another notable opponent: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who appears in an ad aimed at defeating the initiative.

“Prop 30 is being touted as a climate initiative, but in reality it was invented by a single corporation to divert state income taxes to benefit their company,” the ad says.

Supporters, including environmental groups, public interest organizations, unions and a group of Democratic officials, say the measure is necessary to combat climate change in the state. They said it would generate about $100,000 billion over the next 20-plus years.

The Massachusetts ballot measure, meanwhile, would impose a 4 percent surtax on those earning more than $1 million, Gleckman said. That’s on top of the state’s 5% income tax rate.

It would raise about $1.3 trillion in 2023 and affect about 0.6 percent of the state’s residents, according to Tufts University estimates. Question 1 money would go towards funding education, roads, bridges and public transport.

Opponents, who include many business groups, say the initiative would be one of the largest income tax increases in state history and would not hold politicians accountable for how they spend the funds.

Both California and Massachusetts measures have a good chance of passing in blue states, Gleckman said.

“These are tax increases on a small number of the wealthy, and they are being used for very well-known purposes,” he said. “So it’s easier.”

Arizona voters will decide whether to change some of the rules governing residents’ medical debt.

Proposition 209 would cap the interest rate on medical debt at 3% and limit medical debt wage garnishment to a maximum of 30% of earnings. The value of primary residences and cars that would be protected from medical debt collectors would increase to $400,000 and $15,000, respectively, up from $250,000 and $6,000, said Rodd McLeod, a spokesman for Healthcare Rising Arizona, which supports the measure. Supported by The Fairness Project.

The bill does not forgive any medical debt, McLeod said.

Opponents believe that the initiative will harm consumers. It would make it harder for Arizonans to get credit and collect debt from in-state businesses, as well as increase interest rates on consumer debt, according to Protect Our Arizona, which is seeking to defeat the measure.