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Carbon Tax, Minimum Wage, Renewable Energy: 7 Ballot Initiative Results That Matter Most to Big Business

Sure, the 2018 midterm elections determined the fate of hundreds of political hopefuls on Tuesday night, but ballot initiatives, with the potential to boost or burden the business committee, were up for a vote too.

Big Business eked out some significant wins on Election Day, especially when it came to defeating environmentally charged measures, but the corporate community also suffered some potent blows. Here’s a rundown of the results that—from a business perspective—matter most:

Washington rejects ballot initiative on carbon tax

Voters in Washington turned down a measure that would have implemented a first-in-the-nation carbon tax on fossil fuel emissions. The proposal was endorsed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates pushed for it via a $1 million donation to the ‘yes’ campaign. The oil industry, meanwhile, bankrolled a campaign against the proposal. The well-financed backers on both sides made Initiative 1631 the most expensive ballot measure in state history.

Arizona rejects ballot initiative on renewable energy

In Arizona, voters rejected a measure that would have required regulated utilities in the state to obtain 50% of their electricity from renewable sources like wind or solar power by 2030. The state’s biggest utility, Arizona Public Service, vehemently opposed the initiative, with its parent company pouring more than $25 million into opposing the measure. Its primary argument against the measure was that it would raise consumer costs. The measure had a deep-pocketed advocate in San Francisco billion Tom Steyer, known for his campaign to impeach President Donald Trump, who provided funded that pushed for its passage. Supporters of the measure argued that the sun-soaked state is not taking full advantage of its ability to develop solar power; just 6% of its energy currently comes from the sun.

Nevada passes ballot initiative on renewable energy

As Arizona rejected its renewable energy measure, Nevada approved a similar one that requires all electric utilities that serve retail customers to rely on renewable sources for no less than 50% of their total supply by 2022.

Prop C, which will tax large business, divided the San Francisco tech community. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)JOSH EDELSON AFP/Getty Images
Josh Edelson—AFP/Getty Images

Colorado rejects ballot initiative on oil and gas drilling

Colorado voters rejected Proposition 112 that would’ve dealt a setback to oil and gas companies by requiring drilling to be carried out farther away from population centers and waterways. Proponents of the measure argued that industrial activity like fracking poses too many health risks under the current rules that dictate they take place at least 500 ft. from homes and 1,000 ft. from schools. They sought a new distance of 2,500 ft. The oil and gas industry, which campaigned fiercely against the measure, disputed advocates’ health claims and argued that stricter rules would threaten jobs in the sector and deplete tax revenue.

Nevada rejects ballot initiative on energy monopoly

Nevada voters decided on Tuesday to keep NV Energy’s electric power monopoly in the state, rather than open up the market to competitors. The measure garnered outsize attention since two of America’s richest men were on either side of it. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway runs NV Energy’s government-regulated monopoly, and the utility poured $63 million into keeping its stranglehold of the market. Casino magnet Sheldon Adelson, meanwhile, spent $21 million trying to disrupt the NV Energy monopoly since his many properties in the state use a lot of electricity, and more power providers would’ve likely lowered prices.

San Francisco passes ballot initiative to tax business, help the homeless

Voters in San Francisco okayed a city proposal that will tax its biggest businesses to fund services for the homeless. The measure will target companies with more than $50 million in annual revenue, increasing their gross receipts taxes by an average of 0.5%. That money—expected to total up to $300 million a year—will fund homeless shelters and mental health services. While the measure will ding large firms, not all corporate executives were against it. Its most vocal advocate was Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who sparred with opponents like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz.

Arkansas and Missouri pass ballot initiatives to increase minimum wage

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri passed minimum wage hikes, notable for the boost they will give to workers and the fact that the measures, seen as liberal initiatives, passed in largely conservative states. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will jump from $8.50 an hour to $9.25 an hour in January 2019. It will leap again to $10 the following year, and to $11 the year after that. In Missouri, meanwhile, the current $7.85 hourly minimum wage will creep up to $12 over the next five years.