As we begin to unravel our new political reality, one fact has become increasingly apparent: Ballot measures have become the best political tool to make the types of policy changes that will help working families.
We live in a time of widespread economic suffering. Real wages have stagnated for more than a generation now. In many states, spending on K-12 education has not reached pre-Great Recession levels, leaving schools scrambling to prepare children to participate in an economy that increasingly depends on an educated workforce. Meanwhile, our children are traveling to school on crumbling roads and bridges. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report from earlier this year found that state and local spending on infrastructure is at a 30-year low.
There are, of course, readily available policy solutions to all of these problems.
Raising the minimum wage would help all workers take home a bigger paycheck. State education budgets can be augmented through a progressive tax structure. And infrastructure can be repaired when federal, state and local governments have appropriate funding.
Ballot measures aren’t a solution to every problem of course. First, citizen-initiated statutes are only available in 24 states. Also, too often they are influenced by corporate interests. Ballot measure campaigns are costly and putting too many measures on the ballot often frustrates and confuses voters.
Still, our country’s economic problems are too great to sit and wait for Congress or state legislatures to act. As we move through what is likely to be an economically tumultuous time for many of our country’s most vulnerable citizens, ballot measures are very likely one of the best means we have to increase economic security for all Americans.
Originally released on Morning Consult.