Voters weigh in on transportation issues

By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

During the fall election, voters in states around the country had their say on various transportation-related initiatives. Land Line tracked measures covering statewide, county and local ballot initiatives. Here is a state-by-state recap of how some initiatives fared on ballots.

In Texas, 83 percent of voters approved a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

Passage of Proposition 7 will send money already available to the state to the state highway fund. Specifically, up to $2.5 billion more each year will be directed for road and bridge work via the state's sales tax starting in September 2017.

The state's sales tax now accounts for more than $27 billion annually in revenue for the general fund.

Proposition 7 authorizes sales tax revenue to be used to aid non-toll road projects and to make payments on debt that the highway department has accumulated in recent years.

The state's 6.25-percent vehicle sales tax will be tapped to raise another $250 million annually for road work.

Starting in September 2019, 35 percent of the revenue above $5 billion that is raised each year from the vehicle tax will be used for transportation projects.

The vehicle sales tax revenue now is applied solely to the general fund to pay for state programs and education.

More than two-thirds of voters in the state of Washington voted in favor of repealing an increase in the state's fuel tax rate. However, Advisory Vote 12 was a nonbinding question to find out whether voters want to repeal or maintain a fuel tax rate increase of 11.9 cents.

The state Legislature approved the increase that will be phased in by the summer of 2017. The first 7 cents of the increase took effect Aug. 1.

In Maine, nearly three-quarters of all voters chose to approve an $85 million bond initiative for highway and bridge work.

Passage of Question 3 authorizes the use of $17 million in general fund bonds to construct, reconstruct or rehabilitate high-priority highways; $46 million will be allotted for bridge replacements and rehabilitation; and another $17 million will be applied for improvements that include the state's ports, harbors, and transit and freight rail.

Voters in Louisiana cast ballots on two transportation funding questions during the state's Oct. 24 primary election.

The first question, Amendment 1, failed to win approval with 53 percent voting in opposition. The question called for steering a portion of state mineral revenue, which includes oil and gas, into a transportation account.

Currently, about $21 million in mineral money is instead deposited into the state's rainy day fund.

Amendment 2 on the statewide ballot was approved with 53 percent of voters endorsing a plan to allow state funds to be invested in a transportation infrastructure bank. The setup covers the use of public funds to establish the new account to provide a revolving loan program to local governments. All state funds in the new account will be used solely for transportation projects. LL