Rideshare Taxes, State Revenue Limits, and Major Transit Bonds: Top 10 Ballot Measures to Watch in November
November 1, 2019|Romic Aevaz
This November —in addition to a slew of gubernatorial, state legislative, and mayoral elections—voters across 20 states will decide on more than 100 transportation-related ballot measures totaling over $12 billion in potential investment.
As part of our ongoing Transportation at the Ballot Box series, Eno is cataloguing state and local ballot measures related to transportation. This year’s ballot initiatives include not only bonds and local tax measures to fund major road and transit projects, but also proposed changes to state revenue collection practices in Colorado and Washington with significant implications for future infrastructure funding and governance. As we head closer to Election Day, here is a preview of some of the investments and proposals on the ballot around the country:
Major Transit Investments
1. Houston’s METRONext Bond
Harris County voters will decide whether to approve $3.5 billion in bonds to fund a range of proposed transit projects included in Houston METRO’s METRONext plan. Building off its existing light rail system and major bus network redesign, Houston METRO is planning 75 miles of new bus rapid transit routes, 16 miles of new light rail lines, and over $600 million in improvements to the existing bus system, including facility, bus stop, accessibility, and park & ride station improvements.
2. San Francisco Proposition D – Rideshare Tax
San Francisco’s Proposition D will ask voters to approve a tax on rideshare trips – 3.25% for private rides, and 1.5% for shared rides. If passed, the rideshare tax would generate over $30 million annually in dedicated funding for transit and pedestrian infrastructure. Revenue would be divided equally between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for transit and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority for pedestrian safety improvements. Because the measure is a dedicated tax, it must receive a two-thirds supermajority to pass according to California law. Notably, the measure has been supported by both Uber and Lyft.
State Revenue Limits and Transportation Governance
3. City of Denver Question 2A – New Department of Transportation & Infrastructure
As part of a bureaucratic reorganization, the City of Denver is proposing to create a new Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to replace the existing Department of Public Works through Question 2A. While the initiative does not impact current department funding or staffing, it aims to reorient the department’s priorities to emphasize transportation equity as part of a broader effort to boost the city’s role in supporting regional transportation.
4. Washington Statewide Initiative 976 – “$30 Tabs Initiative”
Washington State’s Initiative 976—dubbed the “$30 Tabs Initiative”—would limit vehicle license fees to $30, change how the state calculated vehicle taxes by using a vehicle’s Kelley Blue Book value rather than its base suggested retail price, and prohibit regional transit agencies like Sound Transit from imposing motor vehicle excise taxes. Additionally, I-976 would prevent localities from collecting car registration fees through transportation benefit districts, which are commonly used to fund infrastructure maintenance projects. If enacted, the initiative could cut the state’s transportation funding by approximately $302 million annually and $58 million annually from local transportation benefit districts, transforming how state and local officials plan for and finance transportation projects.
5. Colorado Proposition CC
Another referendum with impacts on state revenue collection is Colorado’s Measure CC. Colorado’s constitution contains a provision, known as TABOR, which sets a revenue cap on the state government (currently around $15 billion). A portion of money collected above the revenue cap is returned to voters annually through a TABOR refund, which consists of a mix of property tax benefits and income tax returns. Proposition CC aims to allow Colorado to keep funds collected above the revenue cap indefinitely to fund public education and transportation. While no specific projects have been identified, estimates indicate the measure would raise over $654 million over the next two fiscal years to be split equally between public schools, higher education, and transportation, of which $217 million would be spent on state and local highway and transit projects.
6. Sandy Oaks, Texas Proposition B – VIA withdrawal
The community of Sandy Oaks in central Texas, home to roughly 3,500 residents, will vote on Proposition B to decide whether to withdraw from the VIA Transit Authority, which serves the greater San Antonio region. While Sandy Oaks is currently a part of VIA, the agency does not operate any transit services in the community. In response, Sandy Oaks officials concerned about the lack of planned future service placed the measure on the November ballot to withdraw from the agency. Through local editorials and communication with VIA, officials have recently learned that, under Texas law, Sandy Oaks would still be required to pay VIA until it meets its financial obligation to the agency after withdrawal (up to $1.2 million). The referendum and its outcome will shed further light on dynamics between the transit agency and its jurisdictions, as well the challenges behind service planning in the growing region.
Major State and Local Bond Initiatives
7. Improve our Tulsa Bond Initiative
On November 12, voters in Tulsa, Oklahoma will choose whether to renew funding for the second round of Improve Our Tulsa, the city’s streets and infrastructure program. The first round, passed in 2013, invested more than $900 million in transportation, facilities, parks, and other citywide infrastructure needs. The second round consists of three separate ballot measures: a $427 million bond measure to fund transportation projects including street maintenance, ADA improvements, bus rapid transit, and ped-bike infrastructure, a $193 million temporary sales tax renewal measure for facilities, parks, and public safety projects, and a $19 million permanent sales tax renewal measure for the city’s Rainy Day Fund.
8. Henry County, GA Bond
Henry County’s local option sales tax is up for its fifth renewal. The Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax measure, or SPLOST V, would raise over $204 million in revenue to fund a range of both county and city transportation, public safety, facilities, and recreational projects. Over $77 million would be dedicated to county transportation projects and roughly $15 million to city transportation projects.
9. Maine Question 1
One of the few statewide bond measures on the ballot this year, Maine’s Question 1 will ask voters to approve $105 million in bonds for transportation projects. A majority of funds—$85 million—would be used for construction and repair of state priority highways, while $15 million would be dedicated for freight and passenger rail, transit, maritime, aviation, and ped-bike facilities and equipment. The remaining funds would fund repairs to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and a new competitive grant program for culvert improvements.
10. Albuquerque, New Mexico – GO Bonds
Albuquerque voters have 11 bond measures on their ballot totaling nearly $130 million in funding ranging from public safety and parks to affordable housing and libraries. Two of the measures would dedicate over $36 million to transportation through a streets bond and a public transportation bond. The streets bond would fund nearly $33 million in projects including road reconstruction, ADA sidewalk improvements, traffic signaling upgrades, neighborhood traffic management, and ped-bike safety improvements. The transit bond would invest $3 million in bus stop and facility renovations, fleet upgrades, and construction and renovation of park and ride stations.
Check back for a full catalogue of measures as well as all the results after Election Day.
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