At Least 375 Transportation Ballot Initiatives Before State and Local Voters Nov. 8

October 26, 2016

At the federal level, the story of surface transportation investment policy over the last decade has been one of scarce resources. The unwillingness of Congress to raise taxes on surface transportation stakeholders again (and the refusal of the last two Presidents to ask Congress to do so) has led to federal investment levels that can scarcely keep up with the rate of inflation. Congress emphasized better “leveraging” of scarce federal dollars to bring in more non-federal dollars through innovative credit programs and public-private partnerships. But the message to states and localities was clear: the Lord helps those who help themselves.

Governments across the country have listened, and tens of millions of voters will go to the polls in less than two weeks and will be asked to vote on whether or not to increase state or local tax revenues, or issue long-term bonds, to pay for surface transportation improvements.

The Eno Center for Transportation has compiled a database of 375 state and local ballot initiatives in 26 states relating to transportation (the vast majority of which involve funding) that are up for a vote on Election Day. Together, the ballot questions could raise a quarter-billion dollars for transportation infrastructure. The full list, broken down by state, can be found here. We will continue updating this database (and the links to our articles on individual ballot initiatives) through and after the elections, so keep checking back.

The measures under each state are organized by:

  • Locality
  • Official title
  • Measure identifier
  • Summary
  • Modes
  • Projected revenues
  • Duration

We have excluded measures that combine transportation funding with other municipal departments. There are also many measures — particularly in Ohio and Michigan — which use a millage tax, which is a property tax. One mill is equal to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s value.

Fifteen counties and cities (or, in the case of Detroit, a multi-county metro area) are considering ballot initiatives that will raise more than $1 billion for transportation. Number one with a bullet is Los Angeles County, California where Measure M would raise local sales taxes permanently by a half-cent and would extend another half-cent sales tax scheduled to expire in 2039. The tax increase and extension would raise an estimated $120 billion over 40 years to support an ambitious plan of mass transit and road improvements. (Note that the spending figures in the plan are in 2017 dollars – when looking at a 40-year time horizon, the difference between 2017 dollars and year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars becomes rather pronounced.)

Those top fifteen ballot initiatives total over $230 billion dollars in local revenues raised or funds borrowed for transportation investments over the coming decade.

Ballot Initiatives Raising over $1 Billion
CA Los Angeles County Sales tax extension & increase Transit, Roads $120 billion over 30 years
WA Seattle Sales tax increase Transit $53.8 billion over 25 years
CA San Diego County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads, Bike/Ped $18.2 billion over 40 years
FL Broward County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $12.6 billion over 30 years
CA Santa Clara County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $6.5 billion over 30 years
CA Sacramento County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $3.6 billion over 30 years
CA Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and San Francisco Bonding initiative Transit $3.5 billion
CA Ventura County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $3.3 billion over 30 years
CA Contra Costa County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $2.9 billion over 30 years
MI Detroit area counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw) Property tax increase Transit $2.6 billion over 20 years
GA City of Atlanta Sales tax increase Transit $2.5 billion over 40 years
SC Charleston County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $2.1 billion over 25 years
CA Placer County Sales tax increase Transit, Roads $1.6 billion over 30 years
NC Wake County Sales tax increase Transit $1.0 billion over 10 years

While big dollar amounts always grab the most attention, Eno Center President and CEO Rob Puentes said:

“While the quarter-trillion in transportation dollars presented to voters will certainly get its share of attention, it’s not just about raising money. Alabamans will choose whether or not to establish special districts to manage toll roads. Virginia Beach is asking the public whether it should be allowed to extend the region’s light rail lines to the city. Voters in Spokane may decide whether to ban coal trains from passing through the city. The results may mean a future of more citizen involvement in the important transportation decisions that shape their communities.”

The database was complied by Eno Policy Analyst Emily Han and summer intern Barbara Leary. Once again, the full list can be viewed, by state, here.


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