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Raise our taxes, please!

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Tess Vigeland: The Tea Party movement scored some victories in yesterday’s primary elections. Feels like efforts to cut spending and hold down taxes have all the mojo right now. But voters in one of the most conservative states in the nation, Arizona, sent a very different message: Raise our taxes!

Jeff Horwich looks at where that result fits in with the mood of the country.

Jeff Horwich: Like lots of states, voters in Arizona are up against a wall. State revenue is down by a third, and huge cuts are on the table. But unlike other states, voters in Arizona actually got to choose what to do about it. And they voted for taxes.

Farrell Quinlan: The overwhelming margin for the tax increase was a little shocking.

Especially for Farrell Quinlan. He’s with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, whose small-business members fought the one-cent hike in sales tax. But they lost — big. Two-thirds of voters chose to temporarily raise the tax, even though the state’s still mired in recession.

Arizonans have a Republican legislature, Republican governor and legendary libertarian streak. So if they’re willing to raise taxes, is it likely other states will follow? Yes, says Jon Shure, who follows state fiscal policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Jon Shure: I guess you could say a funny thing happened on the way to the Tea Party.

Lawmakers in Kansas and New Mexico raised their retail taxes in recent weeks. But Shure says Arizona is a revealing window, because the legislature punted the issue directly to voters.

Shure: One of the things this trend shows is that in many places the people are ahead of the politicians. The politicians see Tea Party rallies and backlash and say, we can’t pass a tax increase.

Granted, the situation for Arizona residents was especially dire. Per capita, their budget deficit is the nation’s worst. But perhaps their decision will inspire a new kind of “pro-tax” protest. Like this one last month in Illinois:

Protestors: Raise our taxes, raise our taxes! Raise our taxes!

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

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