Clones or near-clones of California's Proposition 13 are popping up across the country, aimed not just at state and local spending but at the federal budget as well.
Voters in four states - Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and, as of Friday, Michigan - have succeeded in petitioning measures to the Nov. 7 ballot that would cut or limit property taxes, just as California's initiative did in June.
Other tax relief measures will be on the general election ballot in North Dakota Alabama and Texas.
And spending or tax-limitation proposals will be voted on in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and possibly Oregon.
"The taxpayer revolt is a loaded gun pointed directly at the Congress," says Oregon's state Senate president, Jason Boe, who also heads the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"The message of all these state issues is that the people want government to cut back," Boe said. "Now they can only get at state and local government, but the real, ultimate target is the federal government.
"I am firmly convinced that by April of next year there will be a sufficient number of state resolutions to call into session the first national constitutional convention since 1787."
Boe was referring to the fact that 22 state legislatures have already called for such a convention to propose a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. Thirty-four state resolutions are needed before a convention could be ordered.
Grover Norquist, associate director of the National Tazpayers Union, one of several organizations promoting the fiscal restraint amendments, said the son-of-Prop-13 movement "has arrived because two shibboleths have been smashed. One said that paying taxes to government was like giving to the United Way, and the other said that you get it all back in services."
"The facts are that government is not a benevolent charity - the poverty program didn't help the poor, it helped the burreaucrats - and government is not providing services efficiently," Norquist charged. "You go to city hall or the post office and what do you see? Bureaucrats pushing papers, drinking coffee and harassing the people."
John Shannon, assistant director of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), says the call for tax and spending limits "is no figment of a John Bircher's imagination. It's increasingly apparent that more and more people do not want government spending to grow at a faster rate than their own incomes are growing."
A recent ACIR study that state and local spending (excluding the federal aid these governments receive) went from 8.3 percent of the gross national product in 1948 to 16 percent last year, and that the number of state and local employes per 10,000 population went from 240 to 485.
But Shannon said that public dissatisfaction, as shown in recent national polls, is directed more at the federal government. "Uncle Sam is now the fat boy on the block," he said.
This week the ACIR, whose 26 members include Cabinet and public appointees and elected officials from all levels of government, will consider taking a stand against the constitutional limits on taxing and spending.
"One alternative to fiscal handcuffs is to focus a brighter spotlight on new taxing and spending proposals," said Shannon, pointing to Florida's "truth-in-taxation" law, which calls for heavy advertising and public hearings on such proposals.
But Norquist of the taxpayers union said his organization favors tough constitutional restrictions so that legislators, "slimy sons of gums that they are, cannont drive their Sherman tanks through the loopholes."
He noted that Tennessee's constitutional spending limit, which is tied to the state's economic growth, allows the legislature to define growth and also to exceed the spending limit by a majority vote. "It's worthless - absolutely worthless," Norquist said.
A Washington Post survey, aided by the Council of State Governments and the National Taxpayers Union, shows that the following fiscal restraint measures will be on November ballots.
Idaho - Would limit the property tax to 1 percent of current market value. The average now is 1.7 percent.
Nevada - Would also impose a 1 percent limit, reduce property vauation to the 1975 level and forbid increases in assessments higher than 2 percent a year. To become effective, the measure would have to be approved again by the voters in 1980.
Oregon - Would limit the property tax to 1.5 percent of assessed value. The average now is 2.4 percent.
Michigan - Would reduce local property taxes by 50 percent, limit annual increases in assessment to 25 percent, place a 5.6 percent limit on the state income tax (now 4.6 percent) and force the state to pay the full cost of any new program it mandates for localities.
A counterproposal, favored by Michigan Gov. William G. Milliken, will also be on the ballot. It would simply limit state spending increases to the rate of growth in personal income in the state (now rising 9.4 percent a year).
In Alabama the legislature has proposed a measure to lower assessments by 5 percent but allow localities more flexibility in adjusting tax rates.
In North Dakota an initiative proposal would cut state income taxes by increasing the amount subject to certain rates. Now, for instance, a 1 percent rate is applied to income up to $1,000; under the proposal that rate would apply up to $3,000.
In Texas, a special session of the legislature has recently proposed a package of ballot issues, many of which are merely permissive, not mandatory. One, however, would require a $5,000 homestead exemption for all school district residents, and a second would exempt personal property from taxation. Other proposals would enable the legislature to give some tax relief to the elderly and enormous tax relief to corporate farmers and timber barons.
In Maryland there will be no statewide issue, but Montgomery County residents will vote on proposals to limit budget increases and cut the local property tax rate 15 percent, and Prince George's County residents will vote on a measure to freeze tax collections at this year's level.
Arizonans will vote on a constitutional amendment to limit state outlays to 7 percent of the personal income in the state.
Colorado's proposed amendment would tie state and local spending to cost-of-living increases. The state now has a statutory ceiling of 7 percent on spending increases.
Nebraska's initiative would place a 5 percent constitutional limit on local budget increases, but the lid could be lifted by a majority vote in each community.
In South Dakota an amendment proposed by the legislature would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a majority vote of the people for any future tax increases.
Texas' proposed spending lid would link increases in state appropriations (other than those for education or those tied to federal aid) to the state's economic growth. A majority of the legislature could vote to exceed the limit.
Oregon's legislature has just approved a ballot package that would reduce local property taxes by 50 percent and have the state rebate to localities the loss in revenue that would result, and it would tie future state aid to localities to inflation and population growth.
In Illinois voters will be asked if they want a new law and a new constitutional amendment limiting state and local spending and taxes.
Ballot proposals to limit spending are also being considered this week by the Maine legislature and by a state constitutional convention in Hawaii. In Montana the Republican Party is trying to convene a special session of the legislature for a similar measure.
How many of the ballot issues will pass is not clear, but no one here doubts the seriousness of purpose behind them.
"Everyone's consciousness has been raised," says Carl Weissert of the ACIR. "A legislative source from Nebraska told me recently that people there are paying more attention to property taxes than to the football team. And that's unheard of in Nebraska."