Transportation at the Ballot Box: What to Watch

On Election Day next week, voters in at least 21 states will decide on hundreds of important questions related to transportation investments, policy, and practice in their states, regions, and localities. All told, over $130 billion in spending over the next 20 years could be affected. Eno tracks all the measures, initiatives, and referenda related to all transportation modes and at all levels. We also look beyond those that authorize money for projects, and include policy, governance, and advisory questions.

On November 10, Eno will present initial findings on the election results, including which key ballot measures passed and failed and what these outcomes can tell us about the future of transportation governance, investments, and ballot initiatives in 2022 and beyond. Sign up for the webinar HERE.

In the meantime, here are a few measures we are watching:

Two states have so-called “millionaires’ taxes” on the ballot that would potentially raise tens of billions of dollars for transportation. California’s Proposition 30 would increase the tax on income for those earning over $2 million. Eighty percent of the revenue would go to support zero-emissions vehicle infrastructure and purchases, and would target the spending to low-income and disadvantaged communities (the remaining 20 percent is slated for wildfire protection.) It could raise about $3.4 billion each year for transportation over the next 23 years.  Massachusetts’ Fair Share Amendment would charge an additional tax on high-income earners and would direct revenue to modernizing transit throughout the state, repairing bridges, and supporting education. The precise split between those priorities is not yet known, but an even allocation could send $650 million each year to transportation in perpetuity.

In 2017, voters in Arizona’s Pinal County, approved wide-ranging plan to improve transportation connectivity for the county’s roads and transit. This year, they get to decide whether to increase the county sales tax and raise over $1 billion to fund the continuation of that plan over the next two decades. A specific list of projects have been identified and would allocate about 69 percent of the revenue for roadway projects, and 31 percent for transit.

Brazos County, Texas voters will see two transportation funding measures before them this November: Proposition A would authorize borrowing for a $100 million bond measure for eight specific road and bridge improvement projects, and Proposition B increases the vehicle registration fee by $10 to raise about $1.4 million each year for the county’s Regional Mobility Authority.

Another unique funding source will be considered by voters in Carson City, Nevada. Question 1 asks residents to continue the locality’s 5-cent tax on diesel fuel. It would potentially raise a half-million dollars each year and support the city’s work to rehabilitate and maintain its roadway network pavement. Washington State voters will decide on a question to increase the tax on aviation fuel, but this measure is advisory for the legislature and is not binding.

Many measures have pedestrian and bicycle elements in them but Denver, Colorado’s Initiative 307 is the most aggressive. Dubbed “Denver Deserves Sidewalks” would raise tens of millions each year to create a master plan for building, fixing, and maintaining the city’s sidewalks. It would be funded on a fee assessed to property owners based on the length of sidewalk on their property, with discounts for low-income households.

There are a small number of aviation measures on the ballot this year including Nebraska’s state Amendment No. 1 which would remove a restriction that currently prevents local governments that own or operate airports from spending money to expand commercial flights. Philadelphia voters will decide whether to create a city Department of Aviation.

There are a number of measures to provide money for public transit in places like San Francisco, Boulder, and Orange County, Florida. In two municipalities near Austin, Texas, voters will decide whether to remain as part of the regional transit agency.

The Eno Center for Transportation does not formally endorse or oppose any of the measures. But, as always, we are paying close attention to the message voters will send this November.

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