SAN FRANCISCO California voters decisively approved a ballot measure that will raise taxes by $6 billion annually over seven years, according to election results Wednesday. Voters heeded the pleas of Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the new revenues were necessary to save the states public schools and balance the budget.
The vote 54 to 46 percent, with all of the precincts reporting Wednesday morning brought an end to an acrimonious, $123 million battle between the governor and conservative opponents in and outside the state. It was a victory for Brown, who had staked his personal prestige on the initiatives success and campaigned intensely for it.
Voters in Colorado and Washington made their states the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Oregon, a similar measure was defeated 55 percent to 45 percent.
Supporters of Washingtons initiative said they hoped its passage would ultimately change federal law, which regards any possession or sale of marijuana as illegal.
Gay rights advocates savored multiple victories Wednesday, with the first election victories for same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Meanwhile, voters in Minnesota rejected a proposal to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Similar measures have been enshrined in the constitutions of 30 states.
In Maryland, voters endorsed a ballot measure allowing in-state tuition at public colleges for illegal immigrants. Massachusetts voters narrowly rejected legalizing physician-assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses.
But nowhere was the fight over ballot measures fiercer than in California, where spending on campaigning for and against 11 measures totaled nearly $370 million, according to MapLight, an organization that tracks campaign spending.
Under Browns tax initiative, Proposition 30, income tax rates for those earning more than $250,000 annually would be raised for seven years, and a -cent increase in the state sales tax would be put in place for four years.
Also in California, voters defeated an initiative to end the death penalty. Supporters, including law enforcement officials, argued that administering the death penalty was inefficient and that eliminating it would save the state money.
Voters endorsed a measure that would make the states three-strikes law somewhat more lenient by imposing a life sentence only for a third felony conviction considered serious or violent, but they rebuffed another that would have made the state the first in the nation to require the labeling of foods made from genetically modified crops.
The measure could have led to a reduction in the use of genetically modified crops, which now account for more than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and sugar beets grown in the United States. That is because food companies, fearing that some consumers would shun products labeled genetically engineered, would instead reformulate their products to avoid such ingredients.
Charter schools were on state ballots. By a wide margin, Georgia voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that will allow for the creation of a commission to authorize new charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently operated.
In Washington, voters were asked to allow charters into the state for the first time. Similar measures had failed three times in the past 16 years. Its fate was still up in the air Wednesday night.