This year’s midterm elections were not just about picking a new Congress. A number of cities and counties throughout the country also conducted ballot initiatives to raise local sales taxes to finance a variety of public projects. But for the most part, voters seemed disinclined to approve tax increases in a year when inflation nationwide hovers around 8 percent.
One of the more notable sales tax defeats was in Orange County, Florida, which includes the City of Orlando. Local officials and business groups supported a 1-cent increase in the local sales tax to fund $12 billion in proposed transportation projects over the next 20 years, according to the Orlando Sentinel. This would have raised the local tax rate from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent.
Despite the endorsement of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and a $1.5 million campaign, voters soundly rejected the initiative, with 58.5 percent voting “no.” The leader of a group opposed to the tax increase told the Sentinel, “[W]hen you’re trying to raise taxes in a recession, you’re going up against a headwind.”
Orange County apparently voters weren’t alone in that sentiment. Voters in Hillsborough County near Miami rejected a similar 1-percent sales tax proposal that would have financed local road repairs and additional transit options.
Several South Carolina counties also had project-based sales tax initiatives on their local ballots. Three counties–Clarendon, Lexington, and Sumter–voted no, while two others–Newberry and Orangeburg–voted yes, according to WLTX. The Sumter proposal would have kept an existing 1-percent sales tax to provide approximately $150 million in projects over the next seven years. In Lexington, local officials had hoped to start collecting an additional 1 percent in sales tax starting next May to “fund a list of road and traffic improvement projects,” according to WIS.
Missouri Localities Looked to Sales Taxes to Beef Up Police Funding
While many sales tax initiatives focused on funding transportation projects, some places also looked to increase spending on local police forces. In Missouri, voters in the City of St. Joseph overwhelmingly approved a 1/2-percent increase in the local sales tax for the next 20 years, which is expected to produce an additional $5.5 million in revenue to improve salaries and training for the city’s police. According to the St. Joseph News-Press, this will raise the citywide sales tax rate to 9.7 percent, although in some community improvement districts that would now be as high as 10.7 percent.
Meanwhile, 230 miles away in Nixa, Missouri, voters in that small city rejected a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund a new police station and additional officers. According to KY3, city officials had hoped to fund a $13 million, three-story police department building as well as a $25 million indoor sports complex with the additional revenue. KY3 noted that Nixa has not raised its local sales tax rate since 1987.
Rounding Up the Other Referenda
Here are a few other sales tax-related results from this year’s elections:
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