Transportation ballot initiatives address funding needs

| 8/26/2008

Election Day 2008 is a little more than two months away. While national and state races are drawing the lion’s share of attention throughout the country, there are ballot issues in several states that also are of great significance for truckers and others who rely on highways and other roads.

Land Line recently took a look at several transportation-related initiatives on ballots across the country. Included here is a sampling of what was found.

A statewide initiative – Amendment 52 – in Colorado calls for applying a severance tax for road and bridge work. It is intended to dedicate any additional revenue the state generates from the tax to help pay for repair projects.

State law now mandates that increases in severance taxes be deposited into the Colorado Department of Natural Resources budget. Voters will be asked to decide whether to reroute the funds to transportation.

In Alaska, the state’s ballot will include a question about whether to borrow $315 million for road work around the state.

An alternative to roads is the topic of a ballot effort in Kansas City, MO. Voters there will decide whether to help fund an $815 million starter light-rail route. The proposal would authorize a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase for 25 years. The revenue would help build a 14-mile connector linking the city to the north and south.

Another transit initiative is up for consideration in St. Louis, MO. Proposition M on the countywide ballot would authorize a half-cent sales tax increase for public transit. If approved, half of the $80 million that is projected to be generated annually would be used for transit operation and maintenance costs. The rest of the money would go for a MetroLink expansion.

Two transportation questions are on the ballot in Washoe County, NV. Question 2 on the countywide ballot will ask voters whether to increase the general sales tax by one-eighth of 1 percent. If approved, the sales tax question would raise an estimated $280 million to support existing mass transit.

Question 5 is an advisory question only. It will ask voters in the county whether to authorize the Washoe County Board of Commissioners to seek state legislation to adjust gasoline and diesel taxes to help offset a shortfall for street repairs, highway and transit systems. It is estimated that the measure would increase the tax paid in the county on a gallon of gasoline by 2 cents per gallon. The county tax paid on a gallon of diesel would increase about 2.4 cents.

A countywide ballot question in South Carolina would authorize a special local option sales tax. Voters in Berkeley County, SC, will decide on a penny sales tax referendum that would include funding for county roads. It also would make the area eligible for matching state and federal funds.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor