Voters in six states to decide on transportation issues

October 2020

Keith Goble

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Election Day is one month away, and voters in locales around the country soon will cast ballots on issues that cover transportation funding.

Arkansas is the lone state with a transportation question on the statewide ballot. Voters there will decide whether to continue collecting a sales tax to pay for transportation work.

The question is described by Gov. Asa Hutchinson as “the most important issue on the ballot” this fall.

Issue 1

Voters approved a statewide ballot question in 2012 to add a one-half cent sales tax increase to cover a $1.3 billion bond issue for roads and bridges. In place since 2013, the tax collection has a sunset date of July 1, 2023.

The Arkansas Legislature voted a year ago to include a question on the November 2020 ballot to continue collection of the tax.

The governor is among the leading state officials to support the tax, which raises about $294 million each year. Continuation of the tax is estimated to result in about the same amount of yearly revenue.

If renewed by voters, Issue 1 would continue to direct two-thirds of the revenue to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, or $205 million annually. Cities and counties would split the rest, or $44 million yearly.

Tax money would continue to be used to help address repairs and construction of state highways and bridges, county roads, and city streets and bridges.

Advocates say the extension would provide $8.2 billion for economic activity over the next decade.

“We all benefit from good roads,” Hutchinson said in previous remarks. “The half-cent sales tax allows everyone to easily share in the maintenance of our transportation infrastructure.”

Approval of the extension would amend the state’s constitution to make the tax permanent.

Transportation on local ballots

Voters in locales around the country also will decide on transportation funding questions.

In Texas, the ballot in the capital city of Austin will include a question about whether to add an 8.5-cent tax rate on property to bolster a citywide transit plan to reduce traffic.

The $7.1 billion mass transit plan would pay for the construction of light rail lines, new bus routes and a downtown subway system.

Advocates say a federal match would cover 45% of the total cost.

Also in the Lone Star State, voters in San Antonio will decide whether to redirect a one-eighth cent sales tax for public transit. The tax is estimated to raise $38.5 million annually.

Ballots in two Phoenix-area communities will include questions about whether to use

$174 million in bonds to help address transportation needs.

Specifically, voters in the city of Mesa will decide whether to authorize $100 million in bonds for projects that include arterial reconstructions and street and road improvements.

Tempe voters also will decide on using $74 million in bonds for projects that include road improvements.

Elsewhere, the ballot in the city of Bellingham, Wash., will include a question to renew collection of a 0.2% sales tax for street work and transit. In place since 2011, the tax is scheduled to sunset in March 2021 unless voters approve the extension.

The tax raises about $5 million per year.

In the Portland, Ore., area, voters will decide whether to approve a $5 billion plan to invest in regional transportation infrastructure and programs. If approved, funding would be used for work that includes bridge work, upgrades to traffic signals and streetlights in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties.

The revenue to cover costs of the program would come via a maximum 0.75% business payroll tax.

Voters in Atlanta’s largest metropolitan county will decide whether to impose a 1-cent sales tax for transit improvements. The ballot in Gwinnett County will include the question to raise an estimated $12.1 billion over 30 years via the new tax. LL

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.