Local transportation wins big during 2016 elections
While the presidential election outcome received the most coverage, many states, counties and cities came together to pass local transportation funding measures. In fact, the 2016 general election saw the highest number of transportation funding ballot measures passed, with 69 percent of the 280 measures approving nearly $200 billion in transit funding. Some of these were focused on public transit, but other referendums focused on state and local transportation budgets.
In New Jersey and Illinois, voters passed measures that would reserve gas tax funds for transportation-related projects. These “lockbox” laws will allow dedicated funds to exist for transportation use only instead of being diverted to plug holes in the general budget.
Many counties in South Carolina voted to approve sales taxes for transportation funding. For the third time, Horry County voters passed the RIDE III program, a one-cent sales tax that will generate $592 million over eight years. Additionally, Charleston County voted for a half-cent sales tax increase. This sales tax increase will continue for no more than 25 years or until $2.1 billion in revenue has been collected, whichever occurs first. The funds will be split between county road projects while around $600 million will help update and improve the county’s transit system. Charleston County also approved the county to issue $200 million in bonds that will jump-start these projects rather than waiting for the sales tax to generate the necessary revenue.
In Florida, Palm Beach County will raise $2.7 billion over the next 10 years. While this penny sales tax will be divided between the schools, cities and the county, the projects will include repairs to roads, bridges and drainage systems in addition to parks and government buildings.
Counties in California will see the largest impact, as local voters approved 15 out of 26 transportation measures. These funds will go towards roadway repair, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and transit operations and expansion.
Sales tax increases and other ballot measures will become more frequent as local governments look closer to home for transportation funding. While this might put more of a burden on taxpayers, local governments will have more control over their projects and tailor projects to fit their citizens’ needs. In a way, these measures give citizens a larger voice in shaping their communities’ future.
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