California, Georgia ballots to include transportation issues

| 8/12/2010

When voters take their place in the polling booth on Election Day, they will make decisions on various races and issues. Among the topics on ballots in California and Georgia are efforts to address transportation funding.

In California, a November ballot initiative seeks to ban the state from dipping into certain funds when times are tough. The state would be prohibited from taking or borrowing local government and transportation funds under any circumstances.

State law now permits funds to be taken during a fiscal emergency as long as there is an agreement about paying them back. Although voters previously passed a proposition intended to protect funds, the state continues to raid local funds to help address the budget gap.

Supporters stated that Proposition 22 on the ballot “closes loopholes to prevent the state from taking, diverting or borrowing local government, transportation and public transit funds.” They estimate that state lawmakers have raided about $5 billion in local government, transit and redevelopment funds in the two-year budget cycle.

Critics of the initiative say it would hinder benefits of the fuel tax swap approved early this year. They claim it could possibly result in an immediate rollback of the switch, which was done to allow some accounting maneuvers to put more money into the state’s general fund.

Among the funds that Prop 22 would make off-limits to the state are fuel taxes dedicated to transportation and transit improvements, local government property taxes for public safety, and the portion of the diesel tax dedicated to public transit.

Georgia voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that is billed as a way to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state.

Currently, Georgia law prohibits the state Department of Transportation from signing multiyear contracts without having the entire dollar amount of the contracts set aside at the outset.

The ballot question would allow GDOT to pay for projects as they are under construction.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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