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Governors, Transportation Initiatives on State Ballots

It’s more just a presidential election on Tuesday. Transportation-related referenda are on the ballot in several states, both at the state and ...

October 31, 2008

It’s more just a presidential election on Tuesday. Transportation-related referenda are on the ballot in several states, both at the state and local levels, along with gubernatorial elections in 11 states, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Governor seats are up for election in Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington State, and West Virginia.

Transportation issues vary widely from state to state, with several cities and counties also putting initiatives on the ballot. AASHTO offers a rundown:

Alaska

On the ballot in Alaska is a proposal to allow issuance of $350 million in general obligation bonds for transportation improvements. (See related article on Alaska’s road and bridge problems.)

California

Voters will consider a proposal to issue some $5 billion in bonds to provide incentives for the purchase of high fuel economy natural gas vehicles. Also on the ballot is a proposal to launch a high-speed train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, a $9.95 billion project to be paid for through general obligation bonds and federal funding.

Colorado

Amendment 52 would change the state constitution to require the legislature to spend a fixed amount of the tax it collects from gas and oil projects on highway projects, giving priority to improving Interstate 70. Supporters say that the measure would increase funding for highways by $225 million over four years.

North Dakota

North Dakota, one of the few states with a budget surplus due to high oil fee income, has two ballot questions before the voters which could significantly change their budget picture. The first, Measure One, would revise the Permanent Oil Reserve Fund provisions to put 80 percent of the oil income off limits to legislative spending, except by a three fourths majority. The general fund would receive $100 million annually, plus interest from the Trust Fund, which now contains about $600 million.

The second measure would cut the state’s personal income tax in half and reduce corporate income taxes by 15 percent. While that would cost the state about $415 million annually, proponents of the referendum point to the state’s $1.2 billion surplus as evidence that income taxes should be cut.

Washington State

Voters in Washington State will consider an initiative promoted by activist Tim Eyman that would open HOV lanes to the public except for three hours in the morning and afternoon, require traffic light synchronization, require that local government income from red light cameras go to the state for congestion relief projects, and other congestion measures. Safety activists argue that it would gut any incentive for installation of red light cameras, reducing safety improvements for pedestrians. Federal officials warn that passage would jeopardize certain federal funding the state now receives.

Local Transportation Initiatives

A number of cities have ballot questions that would raise local funding for specific transportation improvements.

In Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking a half cent sales tax increase for transportation projects.

Washington State voters in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties will vote on a $17.9 billion plan to extend light rail for 34 miles, as well as adding commuter train service and bus service in Seattle. The Sound Transit project would be financed by a 0.5 percent increase in the sales tax.

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