Future of Transportation on the Ballot in 2016 Election
Tuesday November 8th appears likely to be a pivotal Election Day for the nation’s transportation and infrastructure. With control of The White House and Congress on the line, the future direction of the federal transportation program is also at stake. With control of governorships and state legislatures on the line, so too could be initiatives to seek additional state transportation investment. Meanwhile, communities like Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle will consider ballot measures that could enable major investments in public transit over the next few years. And voters in Illinois and New Jersey will decide whether to place constitutional protections on the use of transportation funds.
The President & Congress
It may not have come up much during the presidential debates this Fall but regardless of who is elected president next month, infrastructure investment could be a high priority and one that could potentially find common ground in what is likely to be a closely divided Congress.
Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed a five-year, $250 billion investment in the nation’s infrastructure that would be made possible through a new national infrastructure bank. Republican Nominee Donald Trump has said he wants to spend at least double that amount with the help of low-interest bonds.
A new Congress will weigh whether to move forward with either of those plans and whether to make any changes in the kinds of projects the federal government chooses to invest in. They will do so as they keep one eye down the road on 2020, when 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (or FAST) Act will expire and Congress will once again need to find a way either to supplement available gas tax revenues to fund programs and projects or to bring revenues and expenditures more closely into line. Failure to start considering how to address this issue early could saddle states with the kind of uncertainty they faced in the years between the expiration of SAFETEA-Lu in 2009 and the passage of the FAST Act last year. The new Congress also will be keeping a close eye on a series of federally funded pilot projects to test alternative user fee-based revenue options such as mileage-based user fees.
Governors & Legislatures
Gubernatorial contests will be decided this year in 12 states—Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
Infrastructure investment has become an issue in the Montana Governor's race, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock faces Republican challenger Greg Gianforte, The Missoulian reported earlier this year. Both candidates believe it’s past time for the state to make significant investments. Bullock wants to spend $200 million over two years on sewer, water, road and school projects and create a new infrastructure trust fund monetized by tapping interest revenues from the state’s $1 billion Coal Severance Tax Trust Fund. Gianforte has supported a plan that would divert any new coal tax revenues to build the trust fund.
Three candidates are vying for governor in Indiana—Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, Democratic former House Speaker John Gregg and Libertarian Rex Bell. Despite the recent use of $1 billion in one-time surplus funds for needed infrastructure repairs, the state still faces a $250 million annual transportation funding deficit and the need for a long-term funding solution to account for declining gas tax revenues, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported in August. Holcomb has declined to automatically oppose tax increases but has said he wants to see what a bipartisan task force on funding Indiana’s roads comes up when they issue a final report in December. Gregg wants to leverage $300 million in reserve funds set aside as part of the 2006 Indiana Toll Road lease to borrow $3 billion for immediate spending on local and state road and bridge improvements. Bell has talked about the need to dedicate all state revenue from road-related taxes entirely to road and bridge maintenance. Currently $408 million of the state sales tax on gasoline is deposited in the General Fund.
Control of state legislatures also could have an impact on whether states will move forward with infrastructure investment plans. In Minnesota, where Democrats control the Senate and the Governor's office and Republicans control the House, the two parties haven’t been able to reach agreement on how to find the money for upgrading the infrastructure. Democrats support increasing the gas tax and registration fees, while Republicans want to tap the state surplus and move other revenues around, as Dan Vock of Governing noted recently.
But one of the biggest transportation-related election stories could be the enormous sums that would result if ballot measures around the country win voter approval next month. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that $200 billion is at stake in public transit ballot initiatives in 31 communities, counties and states nationwide. Among them:
- California: Los Angeles voters will decide whether to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to raise $120 billion over the next 40 years for trains, buses and highways. Voters in Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) meanwhile will consider a half-cent sales tax to raise $6 billion over 30 years for new Bay Area Rapid Transit stations and other projects.
- Washington: Seattle voters will consider new sales and property taxes to raise $54 billion to fund an expanded light rail network and other enhancements.
- Georgia: Atlanta has a $2.5 billion measure that asks voters to increase the sales tax to expand rail and bus service over the next four years.
- Michigan: Voters in metropolitan Detroit will decide on a $4.6 billion plan to build out a regional rail and bus transit system. The region is the largest in America that doesn’t already have such a system, Robert Puentes of the Eno Center for Transportation noted in a U.S. News & World Report op-ed recently.
- Indiana: Indianapolis voters will decide on a .25 percent income tax increase that would expand frequent bus routes, extend service hours and enable the development of three bus rapid transit lines.
Voters in Kansas City will weigh the benefits of light rail as they consider a sales tax. Add to those ballot measures in Broward County, Florida, Wake County, North Carolina, and Charleston County, South Carolina along with measures to authorize bonding for transportation projects in Maine and Austin, Texas and there is a lot on the line November 8th.
Meanwhile, two states will consider ballot measures next month that would put constitutional protections in place to protect transportation funds from future budget raids:
- Illinois voters will consider a constitutional amendment that says transportation-related taxes and fees shall be used exclusively for transportation-related purposes, including costs related to administering transportation and vehicle laws, public safety purposes and the payment of obligations such as bonds; the state or local share necessary to secure federal funds or for local government transportation purposes as authorized by law; the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, and operation of highways, mass transit, and railroad crossings; expenses related to workers’ compensation claims for death or injury of transportation agency employees; and to purchase land for building highways or buildings to be used for highway purposes.
- New Jersey’s measure is intended to complement the recently approved 23-cent gas tax increase in the state by guaranteeing that the increase as well as revenues from the existing 10.5 cent gas tax, the three cents from the current diesel fuel tax not already dedicated for transportation purposes and all revenue from the current tax on petroleum products gross receipts go into the state’s Transportation Trust Fund.
Transportation for America’s Capital Ideas II
Hot on the heels of next month's election, efforts by states to raise money for transportation through innovative state legislation will be in the spotlight as Transportation for America hosts Capital Ideas II in Sacramento, California. CSG is pleased to be a promotional partner for the two-day event (November 16-17), which will offer attendees a highly interactive curriculum of model state legislation, campaign tactics, innovative policies and peer-to-peer collaboration designed to help them advance successful state transportation policy and funding proposals. Just in time to get a jump on the 2017 state legislative sessions, Capital Ideas II (no affiliation with CSG’s magazine Capitol Ideas) will also examine how state departments of transportation are instituting reforms and how California and other states are leading the way in policy innovation. Among the other topics on tap: enabling local transit funding, incentivizing complete streets, project selection process reform, mileage-based road usage charge pilot studies and capturing the value of transportation investments. The latest tentative agenda for the conference is available on the T4America website. Registration is available here. For an idea of what the first Capital Ideas was like in 2014, you can read my coverage of the event here, here and here.
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- “Democratic, Republican Party Platforms Reveal Different Visions for Infrastructure,” CSG Blog Post, August 3, 2016.
- “Los Angeles Transit Expansion Empowered by State Policies, Priorities,” CSG Blog Post, July 14, 2016.
- “Transportation Trust Funds in Spotlight as New Jersey, Connecticut Face Challenges,” CSG Blog Post, June 10, 2016.
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- “Past decisions haunt BART as it seeks voter OK for $3.5 billion bond,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 2, 2016.
- “Desperate for Transportation Funds, Monterey County and Others Turn to Ballot Box,” KAZU-FM, August 25, 2016.
- “Los Angeles will vote again whether to self-finance its infrastructure future,” Brookings, August 3, 2016.
- “Sales tax increase headed to voters,” San Diego Union-Tribune, July 8, 2016.
- “(Stanislaus) County leaders give approval to put transportation tax on ballot,” The Modesto Bee, June 28, 2016.
- “(Los Angeles) Metro puts half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects on November ballot,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2016.
- “Santa Cruz County sales tax measure for transportation progresses,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 16, 2016.
- “Santa Clara County to Vote on Tax for Silicon Valley BART Extension,” Planetizen, June 8, 2016.
- “With State Transportation Funds Strained, Counties Ask Voters for Help,” KQED, May 22, 2016
- “Two proposed sales tax hikes headed toward November ballot in Broward,” Sun Sentinel, May 24, 2016
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- “Fulton (County) mayors agree to call for vote on transportation tax,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 7, 2016.
- “Transit Vote 2016: Indianapolis’ Chance to Get a Real Transit System,” Streetsblog USA, October 13, 2016.
- “Transit referendum spawns efforts to educate, influence,” Indianapolis Business Journal, September 10, 2016.
- “Voters often choose higher taxes for transit, schools,” Indianapolis Star, June 4, 2016.
- “Selling the $56 million transit tax hike,” Indianapolis Star, May 16, 2016.
- “Transportation Bond on Nov. 8 Ballot Enjoys No Organized Opposition,” Maine Public Radio, October 21, 2016.
- “Election Day in Detroit: On November 8, Detroit will vote on whether to build a new transit system that could determine the city’s collective success,” U.S. News & World Report, October 21, 2016.
- “Transit Vote 2016: With Historic Decision, Detroit Could Heal Old Divides,” Streetsblog USA, October 19, 2016.
- “Without an RTA tax, who pays for M1 Rail?” Crain’s Detroit Business, September 25, 2016.
- “Can Public Transit Get Detroit Moving Again,” Bloomberg, August 23, 2016.
- “Counties approve regional transit millage language,” Detroit Free Press, August 16, 2016.
- “Metro Detroit leaders reach deal on transit,” Detroit Free Press, August 2, 2016.
- “Tax proposed for Detroit-to-Ann Arbor rail and other regional transit plans,” M Live, May 31, 2016.
- “Tax push for $4.6B Detroit area transit plan begins,” The Detroit News, May 31, 2016.
- “Light-rail plan will make KC prosperous, transit-oriented,” (Opinion), The Kansas City Star, September 18, 2016.
- “Wake (County) adopts transit plan, will seek voter approval of half-cent sales tax hike,” The News & Observer, June 6, 2016.
- “November referendum to include $600 million for mass transit, Council decides,” The Post and Courier, September 29, 2016.
- “Charleston County Council approves half-percent sales tax referendum, voters decide its fate in November,” The Post and Courier, August 10, 2016.
- “Sales tax referendum could fund area’s first large public transit operation,” The Post and Courier, August 8, 2016.
- “The leap of faith inherent in voting for the $720 million bond,” Austin Monitor, October 11, 2016.
- “Austin council gives initial OK to put $720 million bond on ballot,” Austin American-Statesman, August 11, 2016.
- “Transportation tax to get vote,” The Spectrum, August 10, 2016.
- “Light rail will be on November ballot in Virginia Beach,” The Virginian-Pilot, May 13, 2016.
- “Uber makes rare ballot endorsement, voices support for massive $54B transit prop in Seattle,” Geek Wire, October 24, 2016.
- “Sound Transit 3 is the transit system our region has needed for 40 years,” (Opinion), October 18, 2016.
- “Transit Vote 2016: Seattle’s Huge, Imperfect Transit Expansion,” Streetsblog USA, October 17, 2016.
- “BRT is Not Cheaper Than Light Rail,” The Urbanist, October 12, 2016.
- “Cross-country commute: As Sound Transit’s new CEO in Seattle, Peter Rogoff is serious about effecting change in one of America’s most congested regions,” Progressive Railroading, August 2016.
- “Sound Transit puts $54 billion light-rail plan on ballot,” The Seattle Times, June 23, 2016.
- “Will Washington Voters Love Cars More Than Light Rail,” Next City, June 13, 2016.
- “You’ve got $50 billion for transit. Now how should you spend it?” The Transport Politic, April 6, 2016.
- “Why it Matters: Infrastructure,” Associated Press, October 22, 2016.
- “AASHTO Chief Executive Offers Association’s Expertise to Presidential Transition Teams,” AASHTO Journal, October 21, 2016.
- “Is our next president going to care about transit and street safety?” Greater Greater Washington, October 17, 2016.
- “Clinton Presidency will be a Steel Dawn if Mayors Get Their Way,” City Limits, October 14, 2016.
- “Manufacturers Propose ‘Bold’ Effort to Sharply Boost Transportation Investment,” AASHTO Journal, October 14, 2016.
- “Infrastructure issues and options for the next president,” Brookings, October 13, 2016.
- “Industry Groups Urge Presidential Candidates to Find Long-Term Highway Trust Fund Fix,” AASHTO Journal, October 7, 2016.
- “Clinton, Trump bring infrastructure hopes to White House,” The Hill, September 27, 2016.
- “U.S. Governors: Next President Must Increase Mass Transit Funding,” Route Fifty, September 23, 2016.
- “The next president should make infrastructure spending a priority,” (Op-Ed by former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers), The Washington Post, September 11, 2016.
- “Election 2016—Which Outcomes Should Transit Fans Cheer For?” Mass Transit, August 16, 2016.
- “How Trump and Clinton would rebuild creaky infrastructure,” CBS News, August 16, 2016.
- “Q&A: Fixing the Transportation Mess We’re In,” The American Prospect, August 12, 2016.
- “The problem with Clinton and Trump’s infrastructure plans,” Politico, August 8, 2016.
- “Funding Multi-Modalism,” Planetizen, August 3, 2016.
- “States, Cities Mount U.S. Election-Year Push for Infrastructure,” Bloomberg, July 29, 2016.
- “New Principles for Our Transportation Program,” The Century Foundation, May 11, 2016.
- “House T&I Committee faces shakeup after Election Day,” Politico Morning Transportation, October 18, 2016.
- “Opponents emerge against Illinois road fund ballot question,” Associated Press, October 26, 2016.
- “In Cash-Strapped States, Voters Could Protect Transportation Funds,” Governing, September 23, 2016.
- “Illinois unions, road builders pushing transportation lockbox amendment,” Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2016.
- “Editorial: Voters can end dangerous road funding detours,” The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, September 8, 2016.
- “Gas tax ‘lockbox’ constitutional amendment to appear on Nov. 8 ballot,” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2016.
- “State question would dedicate all fuel taxes for transportation,” Echoes Sentinel, October 12, 2016.
- “Montana Gubernatorial Candidates Spar Over Infrastructure Funding,” Governing, July 5, 2016.
- “(Indiana) Governor candidates offer different road funding plans,” The Times of Northwest Indiana, August 8, 2016.