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Citizens get their say in referendums across the nation

Tax choppers may be falling on hard times.

While no less active this year on pushing ballot measures to reduce or wipe out various state or local levies, they gained fewer victories - and generally less significant ones - than in 1978 and 1980.

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The 15 newly approved tax related measures were among 236 proposals ballot proposals on a variety of subjects in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

A Monitor survey, based on still incomplete tallies in several states indicates that less than one half of the measures made it. These include 18 of the 51 sponsored through citizen-sponsored petitions. Taxation measures

Of the seven successful tax slimming or curbing measures, the most significant appears to be in Texas where voters by a better than a 21/2-to-1 tally voted to abolish the state's property tax, a levy which when last collected in 1979 produced $60 million.

In Maine, a citizen-initiated measure to hold state income taxes to the rate of inflation gained approval 57 percent to 43 percent.

Nevadans said ''yes'' to ending personal property taxes on household goods, and provided for a property tax exemption for users of nonfossil fuels, but refused to remove the sales tax on mobile homes, and exempt food from the sales tax.

West Virginians endorsed property tax exemptions of up to $20,000 in valuation on homes of elderly and disable persons. Tennessee provided a homestead exemption for elderly property owners. Homestead exemptions in Georgia were increased from $2,000 to $4,000.

Idaho upped its property tax exemption from 30 percent of market value to 50 percent or $50,000, whichever is lower.

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Wyoming adjusted its levy for school funding, increasing the state's portion and reducing that borne by local governments.

Colorado and Mississippi voters approved arrangements permiting the taxation of property according to use classfication.

Greater property-tax flexibility, empowering lawmakers to shift more of the burden from homeowners to businesses, was approved by Utah voters.

Among other tax-related measures gaining voter approval on state ballots accross the nation were at least two imposing tax increases.

Missouri voters hiked the sales tax by 1 percent to help fund schools and provide local property-tax relief. The measure is expected to yield some $300 million a year. At the same time, a Legislature-proposed 4-cents-a-gallon boost in the state's gasoline tax was rejected by a 2-to-1 vote. Voters in neighboring Arkansas approved a measure clearing the way for levying an annual tax to repair roads.

Tax-boost proposals were rejected in Washington, where voters spurned an initiative petition for a 10 percent corporate excise tax. Ohio voters turned down a 1 percent sales tax boost to bankroll intrastate mass transportation.

As a sweetener, the Washington measure would have wiped out the current 6 percent sales tax on food.

A measure which could have increased property tax levels on new construction was defeated in Oregon. Unofficial returns there also indicate defeat by a narrow margin of a measure patterned after California's 1978 trail-blazing Proposition 13 and limiting property taxes to 11/2 percent of market value. Nuclear freeze, nuclear power

Voters in the District of Columbia and eight states - California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, and Rhode Island - endorsed nonbinding calls for a nuclear arms freeze. A similar proposal in Arizona, however, failed with a 41 percent voter approval.

For the second time in two years, nuclear power foes in Maine failed in their bid to close down the state's atomic power generating plant in Wiscasset. The latest measure, aimed at a five-year phase-out, lost 56 percent to 44 percent.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts citizens approved by a nearly 2-to-1 margin a statute requiring both legislative authorization and a statewide voter referendum for the siting of new nuclear power plants and low level radioactive waste dumps.

An attempt to wipe out a 1980 voter-approved initiative petition limiting the disposal of wastes from uranium mines was turned down in Montana.

An Idaho-approved initiative, pushed by pro-nuclear forces, will require prior voter approval before state lawmakers can consider a measure to restrict atomic power in the state. Bottle bills, capital punishment, school aid

Major citizen-initiated efforts to impose laws banning the sale of beer and soft drinks in throw-away containers failed in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington.

But bottle-bill foes in Massachusetts were thwarted by better than 3 to 2 in their bid to wipe off the books a legislature-approved statute, scheduled to go into effect in January, requiring nickle and dime deposits on beverages in glass , metal, and plastic containers.

Bay Staters also approved a constitution change clearing the way for legalizing capital punishment for certain first-degree murders. A move to provide public funds to aid students attending private or parochial schools was rejected in Massachusetts, and a similar measure for provide textbooks for pupils in nonpublic schools failed in California.

In Massachusetts, the measure lost 38 percent yes to 62 percent no. In California, the margin was 39 percent to 61 percent. Gun control, new constitutions, land use

California voters also said ''no'' to a proposal to restrict the sale and ownership of handguns. Meanwhile gun boosters in neighboring Nevada and in New Hampshire approved state constitutional language reinforcing citizens' rights to possess and bear arms.

Georgians ratified a new state constitution, and a proposed constitution for the District of Columbia was approved by voters in that city. The latter measure , however, requires congressional approval, and prospects for passage appear slim.

Proposed funding for moving the Alaskan state capital from Juneau to Willow was rejected.

A Nebraska initiative to protect family farms through outlawing corporate ownership of agricultural lands won voter approval.

Retention of state land-use planning powers scored in Oregon when voters nixed a move to abolish the state conservation agency.

Alaskans approved an initiative petition laying claim to thousands of acres of federally owned lands in the state. But an Arizona initiative to do just the opposite - return to the federal government tracts of land which the state had acquired - failed.

Californians turned down a a ground-water conservation program for the San Joaquin Valley. Legalized gambling, interest ceilings

Also faring poorly were proposals for expanded legalized gambling. Minnesotans turned down parimutuel betting. Establishment of a state gambling commission and provision for pool betting and black jack lost out in Montana. Extension of gambling under local option was turned down in South Dakota. Meanwhile, North Dakotans refused to go along with a gambling restriction proposal by outlawing raffles.

Maine approved state credit to guarantee educational loans to university and college students.

Arkansas increased the interest rates permitted on private loans.

Voter registration using drivers' licenses was authorized in Arizona. Idaho lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18.

New Mexico raised the per diem pay for state lawmakers.

Georgia legislators were authorized to hand out life imprisonment sentences, without parole, for persons convicted of multiple murders. And special sessions of the Peach State Legislature were restricted to 40 days. Legislative redistricting

A Republican-crafted congressional redistricting plan was rejected in Oklahoma.

Californians, who last June spurned a redivision of their state into legislative and congressional districts, this time turned back an initiative proposal aimed at setting up a permanent bipartisan commission to handle future districting. The latest action means that lawmakers, instead of outsiders, will be responsible for the new districting mandated before the 1984 election.

Bonding authorizations totaling 2.3 billion were authorized by voters in at least five states - Alaska, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The issues will cover a broad range of public projects including provision for new correctional facilities, water supplies, industrial development, and schools.

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