While the California State Legislature is locked in its annual budget battle and local governments wait for the impact of any proposed statewide cuts, a motivated group of citizens in Arizona are taking an innovative approach to address the state’s tax and spend philosophy.

An initiative, called Majority Rule – Let the People Decide Act, is pending certification by the Arizona Secretary of State. If placed on the ballot and approved by voters this November, the Majority Rule initiative would significantly raise the bar for approval of any tax measure.

The ballot language, which would amend Arizona’s state constitution, is short and sweet. It reads:

“To preserve and protect the right of the people to fiscal responsibility through true majority rule, an initiative measure that establishes, imposes or raises a tax, fee, or other revenue, or mandates a spending obligation, whether on a private person, labor organization, other private legal entity or this state, shall not become law unless the measure is approved by a majority of qualified electors then registered to vote in the state.”

This initiative would amend Arizona’s constitution to require that all voters, not just those motivated to turn-out at the polls, vote and vote affirmatively for any revenue-raising ballot measure. As detailed in an Arizona Republic article, proponents indicate the measure is necessary to “raise the bar of approval for any spending and tax initiatives.” Opponents call the initiative an attempt to “hijack the initiative process, putting victory virtually out of reach for any initiative with a price tag attached.” See this article for more information.

The impact of such an initiative would be significant and negative for any future ballot measure. For example: In 2006, Arizona voted to raise taxes on tobacco to fund early childhood education and health programs. The ballot measure passed easily. As an aside, a similar measure, Prop. 86, was defeated in California. Under the Majority Rule initiative, the Arizona ballot measure would have failed since more than 50 percent of the state’s registered voters didn’t approve it.

Passage of a “Majority Rule” ballot measure in California would make approval of any future revenue-generating initiatives highly unlikely, as the voter apathy factor combined with those who vote no on everything would join together to form an impenetrable voting block.

Arizona’s Majority Rule initiative may be reactionary and short-sighted, but it signifies significant voter discontent with government. Based on numerous public opinion polls, California voters hold less-than-stellar views of our state elected officials and are pessimistic about the state’s long-term future. This reality, coupled with the ease of placing initiatives on the ballot, should incentivize state elected officials to identify a comprehensive and long-term budget solution. If not, a California “Majority Rule” initiative could be in the state’s future.