Unsuccessful Ballot Initiatives2020-05-22T14:54:17+00:00

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Unsuccessful Ballot Initiatives

The TIAC staff researches and prepares detailed case studies of recent successful—and unsuccessful—state and local legislative and ballot initiative campaigns aimed at increasing transportation infrastructure investment. Each one digs into the politics, issues, media, and major players involved in the effort, and a summary of successful campaign “best practices.” Visit the ‘Campaign Case Studies‘ section of the website to view other case studies.

TIAC attempts to track all ongoing state and local transportation funding and financing developments in real time and reports on them frequently through our blog. If you would like to contribute information to this effort, please contact the TIAC staff.

Washington State Initiative 976 (2019)

I-976 was a 2019 ballot measure that repeals state and local authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees, limits state and local license fees to $30, requires regional transit authorities to retired bonds early where allowed, and implements many other changes. These adjustments are projected to cause a massive reduction in revenue and delay major construction projects over the next decade. This study provides a detailed summary of the measure’s effects on Washington’s future transportation funding capabilities.

This study also examines the opposing and supporting campaign strategies employed prior to the ballot vote and analyses how they compare to the campaign ‘best practices’ TIAC has identified.

Case Study — Washington State — Initiative 976  (2020)

Missouri Proposition D (2018)

This measure would have amended Missouri statutes to fund the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s enforcement and administration of laws and traffic regulations. The funding would be provided by gradually increasing the state’s 17-cents-per-gallon motor fuel tax rate to 27 cents by July 2022. The measure would also increase the tax on alternative motor vehicle fuels by 10 cents per unit equivalent to a gallon of gasoline or diesel beginning Jan. 2026. The amendment would allow state income tax deductions for the value of any Olympic related prizes or awards and create an Emergency State Fright Bottleneck Fund dedicated to financing road improvement projects.

It is important to note that the Highway Patrol is funded with transportation revenue, which draws from the revenue the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) may use for transportation maintenance and construction. If passed, Proposition D would have generated $288 million annually for the State Road Fund and $123 million for local roads. This revenue would then be used to fund the Missouri Highway Patrol thus allowing the original 17 cents-per-gallon fuel tax to exclusively fund transportation related needs.

PDF-icon Case Study — Missouri — Proposition D (2019)

ATLANTA, GEORGIA: “Special District Transportation Sales and Use Tax” (2012)

This ballot referendum campaign in Atlanta, Georgia failed to pass the “Special District Transportation Sales and Use Tax” in each of the ten counties in the Atlanta region, although it did pass within the limits of the City of Atlanta.  Georgia is one of only a few states that allow local governments to levy an additional sales tax on the sale of motor fuel.  The 2010 Transportation Investment Act—House Bill 277—established the context for this special transportation referendum. The legislation granted twelve regions the ability to pass a one cent sales tax to fund transportation projects over a ten-year period. This referendum included a $7.2 billion transportation package that proposed a one percent sales tax over a ten-year period to fund roads and mass transportation.  85 percent of the funds would have been allocated for a regional list of proposed projects, and 15 percent of the funds would have been given to the cities and counties to spend on their own transportation needs.  48 percent of the proposed transportation funding would have been allocated for roads and the rest was designated for buses, trains, trails and bicycle proposals.


This unsuccessful ballot referendum campaign in Hillsborough County, Florida failed to secure a transit sales tax measure in the November 2010 election.  The Hillsborough County Commission passed this transit sales tax with a vote of five to two on May 13, 2010.  As a result of this vote, the issue was then placed on the November ballot for voter approval.  This ballot referendum was defeated in the 2010 election —58 percent of voters opposed the measure, while roughly 42 percent supported its passage.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Sales Tax Extension—Measure J (2012)

This unsuccessful ballot referendum campaign in Los Angeles, California failed to approve Measure J—a sales tax extension proposal to fund local transportation projects.  This measure did not receive 67 percent of the vote, and as a result, the measure was very narrowly defeated—66.11 percent of voters supported Measure J, while 33.89 percent opposed it.  Measure J would have cost the average Los Angeles County resident roughly $25 per year, and it would have also generated $90 billion in new revenue over a thirty-year period.

MISSOURI: Amendment 7 (2014)

Missouri voters August 5 failed to approve a ballot measure that would have increased the state’s sales tax by three-fourths-cents to help pay for transportation infrastructure projects. The measure would have raised $5.4 billion over the next decade, with $480 million per year going toward state transportation improvements and $54 million per year going toward local projects.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: Gasoline Tax Referendum (2012)

This unsuccessful ballot initiative campaign in Memphis, Tennessee failed to pass a new one-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax referendum.  In 2012, the Memphis City Council passed legislation to allow Memphis voters to confirm the one-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase proposal. With a vote of eight to three, the city council members sent this issue as a referendum to Memphis voters.  However, in the November 2012 election, the measure lost when 61.85 percent of Memphis voters opposed the referendum.

Alameda County, California: Transaction & Use Extension—Measure B1 (2012)

This ballot referendum campaign in Alameda, California failed in the November 2012 election by roughly 700 votes.  The ballot measure received 66.53 percent of the vote, thus failing to secure 66.67 percent of voter approval required for ballot measures in California.  Measure B1 proposed extending Alameda County’s current .5 percent transaction and use tax that was designated for transportation projects.  The second part of this measure included raising the transactions and use tax by another .5 percent so it would then be one percent.  The third component of this measure would have given the Alameda County Transportation Commission the power to issue limited tax bonds.

RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: General Sales Tax Referendum (2010)

This unsuccessful ballot initiative campaign to increase transportation funding was narrowly defeated by a 1.88 margin in the 2010 election.  The plan would have increased Richland County’s general sales tax from seven cents to eight cents, and the initiative would have generated $1 billion over the next 25 years.  The ballot referendum proposed a one-cent local option sales tax to raise funds to support transportation.  This “penny tax” would have used the new revenues to decrease traffic and improve the roads in Richland County.  According to proponents of the measure, over 40 percent of the revenues would have been collected from people who live outside of Richland County.  Although it failed in the November 2010 election, the referendum was passed in the November 2012 election.

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