Debt Financing

Massachusetts, Texas and Wisconsin are among a list of states this year looking at how borrowing and tax increases fit into their futures as they try to meet transportation needs. I also have updates this week on transportation revenue measures under consideration in Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia, plus a roundup of recent news and resources from the world of transportation public-private partnerships.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley this week offered his latest, long-awaited plan for shoring up the state’s transportation trust fund and averting a project funding cliff expected to hit in 2017. Like a plan recently approved by lawmakers in Virginia and a number of others under consideration around the country, it involves raising some taxes and lowering others to bring in additional revenues for transportation.

Lawmakers in Virginia wrapped up their legislative session Saturday by passing a sweeping, nearly $900 million transportation plan that required compromise from both Republicans and Democrats and that some hope will now encourage other states to follow suit in finding new revenues to support transportation needs. Here are some resources on the particulars of the Virginia plan as well as a look at what’s happening in more than a dozen other states.

There has been plenty of action in state capitals on transportation funding initiatives since last I blogged on the subject, much of it detailed in our CSG “States to Watch” webinar earlier this week. Here’s a guide to some additional reading on what’s going on in some of those states.

I have an article appearing in this week’s Capitol Ideas electronic newsletter that looks at some of the issues discussed January 13-17 at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The gathering brought together more than 10,000 transportation professionals from around the world, including many officials who focus on transportation policy at the federal, state and local levels. As usual there was plenty more that happened during the five-day meeting than I had space to recount in the article. So here’s a roundup of additional comments from a variety of speakers on a variety of topics including MAP-21’s focus on performance measurement, efforts to accelerate project delivery, what MAP-21’s expansion of the TIFIA program will mean for states, how federal restrictions on tolling might need to change to allow states to meet their infrastructure needs, and why many expect federal transportation programs could see cuts well before MAP-21 expires in 2014.

The big news on the transportation funding front this week comes from Virginia where Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing eliminating the Commonwealth’s 17.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax and replacing it with a 0.8 cent increase in the sales and use tax, among other things. But there are plenty of other updates to my recent list of “States to Watch in 2013” as well as details on a few more that didn’t make my initial list.

With the days of 2012 dwindling to a precious few, it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and what could be on the horizon for states seeking funding solutions to their infrastructure needs. Could 2013 be the year states move to increase their gas taxes or fees or enact other revenue raising measures? A number appear poised to do so. But, it should be said, that appeared to be the case at the beginning of this year too (see my not very prescient January blog posts here and here). Nevertheless, there is certainly a lot of transportation talk in state capitals in advance of 2013 legislative sessions. So, with no risk of damaging my already abysmal record of prognostication, here’s my list of states it might be worth keeping an eye on next year.

The 2012 election offered plenty to digest on the transportation front. From state and local ballot measures to the balance of power in Washington, here’s a rundown of what happened and where you can read more about what it all might mean for the nation’s transportation system.

James Bass is Chief Financial Officer of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). He will speak to members of the CSG Transportation Policy Task Force at the CSG National Conference in Austin on December 1, 2012 (see the task force agenda here and register for the conference here). I interviewed Bass for an article in the October 25th issue of the Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter. Below is an extended transcript of our conversation. He discusses federal transportation funding, the use of public-private partnerships and tolling in Texas, and the Lone Star State’s future transportation revenue needs.

Although it may not be readily apparent from the political discourse so far this year, transportation will be one of the major issues on the ballot when Americans head to the polls next month. In numerous state and local ballot measures, voters will decide on bond issues, tax increases, and registration fees to fund infrastructure improvements. They will also be asked to weigh in on specific transportation projects, broader transportation priorities and even the ease with which government may be able to raise future revenues for transportation. It all adds up to an election that could have a profound impact on the mobility of millions of Americans for decades to come.