TranspoAdvocate NewsState & Local Funding News
TIAC staff tracks the latest state and local transportation funding news and provides regular updates on TranspoAdvocates News. To contribute to these efforts, contact Carolyn Kramer.
Voters in 20 states approved more than 80 percent of 215 transportation investment ballot measures Nov. 7, mostly at the local level, according to analysis conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (ARTBA-TIAC).
Preliminary results show voters approved 176 of the 215 measures, or 82 percent. Results are still pending in six Michigan localities. The approved measures will support $2.9 billion in new transportation investment revenue and $1.3 billion in continued funding through tax extensions or renewals. The timing of the market impact of these actions is difficult to project as revenue approved will last as long as 25 years.
Maine voters approved the only statewide measure—a $105 million transportation infrastructure bond— with 72 percent support. This was the state’s fifth successful transportation bond in six years.
Voters in Pinal County, Arizona, approved a half-cent sales tax that will total $640 million for highway construction over the next 20 years. In Pinellas County, Florida, a renewal of a 1 cent countywide sales tax will provide a total of $412 million for road, bridge and trail projects. Voters in Denver also approved a measure to provide a $415.5 million bond to fund road and bridge repairs as part of a larger $937 million bond package that voters signed off on.
Georgia voters approved all 12 sales tax measures on the ballot. As part of the state-wide transportation funding increase passed in 2015, legislators included a provision to allow local governments to raise revenue for infrastructure investment through ballot initiatives.
The largest number of measures were in Michigan and Ohio – representing over two-thirds of the initiatives tracked by ARTBA-TIAC. Many of these were smaller property tax measures to renew local funding for roads, streets and bridges for a five-year period.
Voters also approved several other measures earlier in the year. They include a $1.6 billion bond in West Virginia approved Oct. 7 with 73 percent support. Louisiana voters Oct. 14 agreed to dedicate all revenue from new taxes on motor fuel (created on or after July 1, 2017) to a construction sub-fund of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. It will be used by state and local governments solely for the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure.
Including the most recent results, voters have approved 74 percent of over 1,200 transportation investment ballot measures tracked by ARTBA-TIAC since 2007.
The complete report and an interactive map showing the state-by-state results can be found at www.transportationinvestment.org.
Gas Tax Support Doesn’t Hurt N.J. Lawmakers
New Jersey voters also showed their support for transportation funding on Tuesday by reelecting lawmakers who backed the state’s 2016 gas tax increase.
ARTBA-TIAC tracked New Jersey state legislative elections as lawmakers faced voters for the first time since approving the October 2016 state gas tax increase.
All 40 seats in the state Senate and 80 seats in the Assembly were up for reelection in 2017. In the June 2 primary, all 72 incumbent assembly members and 35 senators who ran for their party’s nomination were successful, including four in the state Senate and 22 in the Assembly who faced competition during their primary.
On Nov. 7, 100 percent of 61 New Jersey lawmakers who voted for the gas tax increase in 2016 and ran for reelection won their seats. (An additional race in Assembly District 8 has yet to be determined, and is considered too close to call for incumbent Assemblyman Joe Howarth [R- District 8]). The results compare to 97 percent of 36 lawmakers who voted against the gas tax increase and won reelection.
The findings corroborate an earlier ARTBA-TIAC report that found voting for a state gas tax increase does not hurt reelection chances. The analysis of over 2,500 state legislators from 16 states who voted to increase state gas taxes for transportation funding found that 91 percent were returned to office in the next general election. This included 89 percent of Democratic legislators and 95 percent of Republican lawmakers. The reelection rates are similar among lawmakers who voted against raising gas taxes.
Gov. Phil Bryant (R) told attendees of the Mississippi Economic Council’s 16th Annual Hobnob event on Oct. 25 that he would support putting a gas tax increase on the Nov. 2018 ballot for voter approval. Read More>>
While most New Hampshire residents believe the state’s transportation infrastructure is in the same or better shape than it was 10 or 20 years ago, 60 percent said they would support a 10 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase if revenue was needed to maintain the state’s roads and bridges, according to a survey released Oct. 24 by the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. Read More>>
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and state Republican leaders announced a plan on Oct. 23 to increase the state fuel tax by 6 cents-per-gallon to help close a state budget shortfall. The plan failed in the House on Oct. 25 in a vote of 54-44, well shy of the necessary three-fourths majority to pass a tax increase in the state. Read More>>
The Missouri House Policy Development Caucus invited residents to share their input on eight possible transportation funding solutions being considered to increase revenue. The public outreach follows months of tours around the state, during which the committee heard testimony on the condition of the state’s transportation infrastructure and evaluated transportation investment methods. Read More>>
State Transportation Funding Opportunities through FHWA
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded six states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Washington and Oregon— a total of $15.5 million in federal grants to explore new ways to implement user-based fees to raise transportation revenue. One project, a partnership between the I-95 Corridor Coalition and the Delaware Department of Transportation, will test the feasibility of a mileage-based user fee for trucks. Read More>>
Additionally, FHWA announced on Oct. 20 that it is accepting applications from states that wish to pursue tolling on the Interstate Highway System. Three states will be permitted to test tolls in the pilot program. Read More>>
Positive Reactions to Past Gas Tax Increases
Results of a recent Indiana survey has found that 57 percent of 600 respondents supported the 10 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase that passed on April 27 and went into effect on July 1, while only 38 percent disapproved of the increase. Read More>>
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) on Oct. 20 praised the state’s 2015 gas tax increase of 6 cents-per-gallon, citing 298 construction contracts had been awarded for $750 million in order to complete work on 6,078 miles of state highway and 172 bridges. Read More>>
The California Transportation Commission on Oct. 23 approved expediting almost $3.4 billion in road and bridge repair projects, which includes 1,200 miles of pavement restoration and the repair of 66 bridges. The additions were made due to revenue approved in the $52.4 billion transportation funding bill signed into law in April. Read More>>
Oct. 26: Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Electric Vehicle Fee, Leaves Door Open for Subsequent Legislative Action
By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA
The Sierra Club won a legal victory in the state of Oklahoma Oct. 24 when a state supreme court decision struck down legislation that instituted registration fees on electric and hybrid vehicles. Despite the fact that the funds raised would go toward road and bridge construction and maintenance, public transit and passenger rail, the Sierra Club said the fees were improperly passed by the state legislature while also contending that “motor vehicle fees are not user fees.” The court agreed in a split 6-3 decision. The court said it struck down the electric and hybrid registration fee because it was improperly classified as a “fee” when it should have been classified as a “tax.” Since there are more legislative requirements for a “tax” than a “fee” under Oklahoma state law, the improper classification forced the court to strike down the fee. The Oklahoma Supreme Court made a similar ruling earlier this year on a recently-enacted cigarette tax.
The court took specific time to note in the decision that “[n]one of this is to say that the Legislature cannot place a tax on electric-drive and hybrid-drive vehicles to further the goal of equalizing the burdens of road maintenance,” only that it must meet the proper legislative and procedural requirements before doing so. The dissenting judges in the case provided further justification for the fees, noting “[t]he fees are to go to the State Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund to compensate the dollars required to maintain Oklahoma roads and highways, the same roads used by electric and hybrid driven vehicles. The fee is a fair exchange for this maintenance.” The full decision can be read here.
Louisiana voters approved a measure on Oct. 14 to dedicate all revenue from new taxes on motor fuel (created on or after July 1, 2017) to a Construction Subfund of the Transportation Trust Fund. This fund would be used by state and local governments for construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure, and prohibited for use on employee wages and retirement benefits. Read More>>
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced on Oct. 17 he would oppose any proposals that utilize general fund revenue to solve the state’s $478 million transportation funding shortfall. While the Arkansas Highway Commission had previously announced plans to place a transportation funding measure on the November 2018 ballot, Department of Transportation Director Scott Bennett said he would consider waiting until 2019 for lawmakers to reach a solution in the state legislature. Read More>>
Transportation funding experts will come together to explore 2017 general election results and ballot measure campaigns during a free hour-long webinar on Nov. 9, hosted by ARTBA’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (TIAC). Speakers will provide a deep dive into the Nov. 7 election outcomes, including insight into congressional races as well as state and local ballot measure results, and overall transportation funding trends from recent years. Research into the reelection rates of lawmakers who supported and opposed a gas tax increase will also be explored.
The free Nov. 9 webinar begins at 3 p.m., Eastern, but requires advance registration.
The session will feature:
Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA. Bauer will discuss the results of the 2017 General Election congressional races, and what they means for the transportation construction industry. Bauer will also share his insight on transportation funding developments on Capitol Hill.
Carolyn Kramer, deputy director, ARTBA. Kramer will discuss the outcome of over 200 state, county and local transportation funding ballot measure results from 2017. She will also explore results from previous years and transportation funding trends. Additionally, Kramer will provide insight into the latest research that explores the reelection rates of state lawmakers that have both supported and opposed gas tax increases in 17 states.
The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ is an internet-based educational platform that features detailed reports, analyses and case studies of recent transportation funding campaigns—both successful and unsuccessful—mounted in numerous states. It includes television, radio and print ads, polling, an overview of state and local funding and finance mechanisms, and an ongoing blog detailing new developments across the nation.
The Center’s program of work is also guided by the Transportation Investment Advocates Council™, a national network of business professionals and public officials who share a common interest in building support for transportation infrastructure investments in their state or local community.
Please contact Carolyn Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.