Wisconsin Budget

States Approve Progressive Ballot Measures

Increasing minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana and more.

By , Wisconsin Budget Project - Nov 20th, 2018 02:52 pm
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Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Numerous ballot measures came before voters on November 6th, and progressive policy changes won approval in some very red states. Of course, not all of the progressive measures passed, and voters also approved some conservative changes, but the mid-term elections demonstrated strong support for issues like boosting funding for schools, expanding Medicaid, and significantly increasing the minimum wage, even in red states.

The following are some of the noteworthy progressive wins on Election Day, starting right here in Wisconsin:

$1.3 billion worth of school referendums approved in Wisconsin – On Election Day, Wisconsin voters overwhelming showed that they support public schools and are willing to tax themselves to improve K-12 education. They approved 77 of the 82 local referendums on the ballot, amounting to an increase of over $1.3 billion for schools. As the Journal Sentinel reported, the approval rate for all school referendums during 2018 was nearly 90 percent, far above the rate in past years.  

Nearly 1 million people in two states get minimum wage increasesVoters in two states, Missouri and Arkansas, overwhelmingly approved ballot initiatives that will provide large increases in the minimum wage in their statesboosting the pay of almost 1 million workers. In Missouri, the minimum wage will increase from $7.85 to $12.00 an hour by 2023. In Arkansas, it will increase from $8.50 to $11.00 an hour by 2021. In contrast, Wisconsin’s minimum wage is stuck at $7.25, where it has been for almost 10 years. Raising the minimum wage supports low-wage workers, particularly women and people of color, and is an important way to reduce the growing economic divide.

363,000 more people in 3 red states will qualify for Medicaid Three very red states – Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah – joined the long list of states that have adopted the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Voters in those three states approved ballot initiatives that will provide Medicaid coverage to an estimated 363,000 more people. After those expansions are implemented, Wisconsin will be one of only 14 states that continues to turn down the federal funding for Medicaid. Expanding BadgerCare care eligibility for adults up to 138% of the poverty level ($16,753 per year for a single adult) would cover about 80,000 Wisconsinites and could yield a net savings for Wisconsin taxpayers of about $15 million per month! (Read more here about the benefits of expanding BadgerCare.)

Marijuana Legalization Approved in Michigan and in All the Wisconsin Advisory Referendums Michigan will soon become the first state in the Midwest to end its prohibition on pot, after voters there approved a ballot measure legalizing its use. Voters in many parts of Wisconsin expressed their desire to see our state take a similar step. Legalization of marijuana passed by wide margins in all 16 Wisconsin counties (including Milwaukee, Dane, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Racine and Rock) that held advisory referendums on the subject. Legalizing marijuana would be a small but significant step toward easing the overcrowding in Wisconsin’s jails and prisons.

1.5 Million Floridians have their voting rights restored Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that restores the right to vote for nearly 1.5 million people. For most people convicted of a felony, the ballot measure restores their right to vote once they have completed their sentences. Vox reported that almost 18% of potential Black voters in Florida – 418,000 peoplewere barred from voting in 2016 because of a felony record, even though they had finished their sentences.

$5 Billion of transportation funding protected in CaliforniaCalifornia voters preserved $5 billion per year for road repairs and transit infrastructure when 55% of the electorate voted against a ballot measure that would cut gas taxes. The unsuccessful ballot initiative aimed to repeal a 2017 law that raised the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 20 cents per gallon to fund infrastructure projects. Many communities across the country approved new revenue for transportation, including a one-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in Broward County Florida to pay for road, bus, and rail upgrades.

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