2022 is a midterm year, and national politics will take center stage. With people all across the country heading to the polls, 2022 will be a great opportunity to advance Fire & EMS causes.
Ballot measures are essential tools to bring the issues before the voting public. They are the most direct path to getting an agenda passed and can sidestep the politics of the legislative process. Ballot measures for Fire & EMS issues most commonly ask voter approval to build new facilities or increase staffing, but the thread tying these issues together is almost always funding.“For years American fire departments, from dense metropolitan areas to rural incorporations, have been struggling to keep up with a variety of challenges: politicization of public safety, retention issues, rising inflation, and increasing demands of the job,” we noted in our 2021 Executive Director’s Report. Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 on health and finances in every state have only exasperated these problems.
Potential 2022 Ballot Measures
Ballot measures will be important tools to increase funding to address these rampant problems in 2022. In fact, we already begun looking at potential measures being lined up, including:
- A proposed 0.1% sales tax increase over twenty years in Arizona to further fund the state’s fire districts
- A tax proposal to raise $42.4 million to fund long term fire-prevention solutions and aid wildland firefighters in Napa County, California
- A statewide referendum to enshrine collective bargaining in the Illinois Constitution, a measure supported by the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois
- A measure doing just the opposite in California-to prevent public employees from collective bargaining in the state
But to have the greatest impact at the polls, local departments, officials, and grassroots supporters, like this organization, must understand what issues and proposals resonate with voters the most. This has been the motivation behind our Referendum Report series.
2020 Referendum Review
In our 2020 referendum report we found that voters were generally approving of ballot measures supporting Fire & EMS:
“Of the 86 referendums and ballot measures we studied in 2020, 69 asked voters to increase funding for local Fire & EMS, 11 asked for budget renewals, and 6 asked to expand staffing. In total, voters came through for local emergency services in passing 72% of measures proposed, including securing millions of dollars in future funding, new equipment, and infrastructure.“
We also looked at a range of ballot measures over a three-year period, 2017-2020, to find similarities for success, as well as failure, in getting measures passed:
“In all cases, voters were more willing to accept a modest increase in taxes in exchange for bolstered fire services. Better yet, as in the case of Ankeny, Iowa, over 80% of voters were willing to approve millions of dollars in increased funding when their taxes were not affected at all.“
In general, we found that:
- While 2020 was an exception, historically ballot measures found higher success during primary season where the bitter divide of two-party politics is less pronounced
- The measures who succeeded had effective voter-education & outreach campaigns which clearly stated the risk/reward delta between approving and rejecting a measure
As primaries, and later, the general elections of 2022 inch closer and closer to us, now is the time to dedicate ourselves to the task of Fire & EMS advocacy. This includes raising awareness on the issues, educating voters, and lending support to people on the ground in getting the desired outcomes of their local ballot measures. 2022 will be a big year for Fire & EMS issues, and we are excited for what we can accomplish at the ballot box in the year ahead!