State transportation funding initiatives on the ballot in the Nov. 7th election were successful, giving hope that voters are making the connection between the need for increased revenue to address local transportation needs.
Many of the initiatives were aimed at protecting revenue that was already dedicated to transportation but is not always used for this purpose. These initiatives are similar to the successful effort in TEA-21 at the national level to place firewalls around the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that motor fuel revenue is used for transportation improvements.
Most voters asked at the ballot box whether they would support increasing their tax burden to fund transportation improvements overwhelmingly said "yes." In total, the measures would generate nearly $40 billion in new revenue for transportation infrastructure work, an ARTBA review found.
Americans in 14 states voted on at least 30 transportation funding-related ballot initiatives in this year's election. Of the 30 ballot measures, 28--or 93%--asked voters to initiate, extend or increase taxes, or approve bonds to fund transportation improvements. Twenty-three--77% of the bond and tax measures--were approved. On average, voters approved the winning measures by 66%.
The following is a summary of the major initiatives by state:
Minnesota: Voters, by a 59-41 margin, supported a constitutional amendment to dedicate the existing tax on the sale of new and used motor vehicles to transportation. This action will result in an additional $300 million per year in transportation funding. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Minnesota took the lead in the campaign in support of the amendment, raising $2.5 million from the construction industry of the $3.5 million spent.
California: By a vote of 77-23, voters supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting use of the state tax on motor vehicle fuel sales for purposes other than transportation. These funds can be loaned to the state only in the case of severe fiscal hardship. Loaned funds must be repaid within three years. A second initiative was supported 61-39 to provide $20 billion in bond funding to finance the construction of a variety of transportation projects including port security, highway repairs and safety improvements, upgrades to local streets, seismic upgrades and transit improvements. TRIP worked with AGC of California in releasing a timely study in support of these initiatives.
Utah: Voters approved 64-36 a one quarter of 1% sales tax increase to provide funding to Salt Lake and Utah counties for transportation infrastructure projects. It is estimated that the tax could generate some $765 million in revenue by 2030. TRIP worked with AGC's Utah Chapter in releasing a timely state transportation needs study in support of this initiative.
New Jersey: A constitution amendment was approved 59-41 dedicating all 10.5 cents per gal of the existing motor fuels tax to fund transportation infrastructure generating $78 million annually. Currently only nine cents is dedicated for transportation improvements. AGC of New Jersey worked with labor and civic groups in support of the initiative.
Rhode Island: Voters by a 75-25 margin approved $88.5 billion in general obligation bonds to be used primarily to match federal funding for road and bridge improvement but also for commuter rail and bus rehabilitation.
Seattle, Wash.: Voters approved an increase in property taxes for nine years with the $365 million in proceeds to be dedicated to transportation improvements. AGC of Washington worked in support.
Arizona: Proposition allowing local governments to incur debt up to 20% of the value of taxable property within their jurisdiction to support a number of uses including road and transportation improvements was approved 59-41. The Arizona AGC Chapter worked in support of the initiative.
Georgia: Constitutional amendment providing for the sale of a special motor vehicle license plate with revenue generated to be used for a variety of purposes including infrastructure was approved 68-32.