Daily Ticker

Election Day Ballot Battles: Minimum Wage, Gambling, Fracking and Marijuana

Lauren Lyster
Daily Ticker

Election day is here and while most of the media is focusing on the governors races in New Jersey and Virginia, we looked at some ballot initiatives that investors and the business community will be watching closely.

In New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie is expected to easily win re-election, voters will also decide on whether to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 per hour, effective Jan. 1. The bill would also mandate an annual cost of living increase for people making minimum wage. There are 49,000 NJ residents that currently earn the minimum wage.

Related: The Great Wage Debate: Should Companies Pay Workers More

In Washington, which already has the nation’s highest minimum wage of $9.19, voters in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac will decide whether workers at the airport and surrounding hotels should make $15 per hour.

Washington residents will also vote on whether they want their food labeled as GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). Thirty-four companies, including Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsi (PEP), Nestle and General Mills (GIS) have spent $11 million to defeat the measure – which is similar to an effort that failed in California last year.

Related: Labeling GMO-Foods Is Not a “Radical, Screwball Commie Plot" Says Mark Bittman

In New York, gambling is on the ballot. Voters in the Empire State will decide on whether to approve seven casinos. Governor Andrew Cuomo supports the measure as a way to create jobs and raise tax revenues for education.

In Massachusetts, voters in East Boston and Revere will vote on whether to allow a $1 billion casino at Suffolk Downs Race Track, while voters in the town of Palmer will decide on a casino proposed by Mohegan Sun.

Colorado has three initiatives to watch. One, if passed, would restrict “fracking” in four towns in the energy-rich state.

State residents will also vote on a 25% tax on recreational marijuana, which is legal in Colorado. Money raised from the marijuana tax would be used to fund regulation of the industry and school construction. And a separate initiative – Amendment 66 – would raise state income taxes by about $1 billion per year to fund improved education.

Related: Pot Pushback Goes Up in Smoke: $20 Billion Economy Awaits

In the accompanying video, The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and I discuss some of ballot measures that could impact or set a national tone.

For example, the GMO labeling fight has been cast as a proxy battle over genetically modified food. Campaign finance records show $24 million has flowed into this campaign – more than the state’s 2012 same sex marriage campaign – making it the second-most expensive ballot question campaign ever, according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, the Colorado state income tax ballot measure would replace the state’s flat tax system with a more progressive tax – where the rate for taxable income below $75,000 would increase from 4.6% to 5%, and go up to 5.9% for those with taxable income above $75,000. This tax revenue would fund education and the issue has garnered outside support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The nation will be eagerly awaiting the results.

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