SPECIAL REPORT: Transportation-related initiatives on many ballots

| 11/2/2009

Monday, Nov. 2, 2009 -- On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, voters around the country will make decisions on transportation-related initiatives and on some lawmakers who will have a say on the future of transportation in their states. While the issues aren’t as glamorous as a national election, their significance to communities warrants attention from voters. OOIDA’s Land Line recently took a look at many of these issues. Included here is a sampling of what was found.

INDIANA (polls open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Voters in two Northwest Indiana counties will participate in a state-mandated referendum on regional transportation. Ballots in Porter and St. Joseph counties include a question asking voters whether they support the creation of a four-county transportation district for a region-wide rail system and a bus transportation system.

Intended to help free up local roads, the district would have authority to impose a proportional tax of up to 0.25 percent to fund projects.

MAINE (polls open by 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Question 6 is a 10-year, $71 million bond proposal for transportation projects. Voters will decide whether they want to authorize bonds in the amount of $55 million for the highway fund. The rest would be directed to the general fund for such uses as railroads, ports, ferries and airports.

A portion of the rail investment would be applied to shifting “rail-appropriate freight” from road to rail.

Also on the ballot is a measure to trim the vehicle excise tax. Question 2 asks voters whether they want to reduce the municipal excise tax on vehicles up to six years old and exempt hybrid and other alternative-energy and highly fuel-efficient vehicles from the sales tax and three years of excise taxes.

MICHIGAN (polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Ballots in the city of Kalamazoo, MI, will include a question that would affect property tax. Voters will be asked whether they want to approve a tax levy of 0.6 mills to support Metro Transit service within the city from 2010 to 2012.

OHIO (polls open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.)
In Cincinnati, voters will decide whether to keep the final say on any rail issue or give the city council the last word. If approved, a public vote would be required on all rail-related projects in Cincinnati that use city taxpayer money.

In Washington Township, voters will decide on two proposals to renew a road maintenance tax.

One question proposes allotting one mill for each $1 of valuation, which amounts to 10 cents for every $100 of assessed value, for five years. The other question proposes allotting two mills for each $1 of valuation, which amounts to 20 cents for every $100 of assessed value, over the same time.

Jerusalem Township voters will decide on a proposed tax levy for general construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, and repair of streets and bridges. The issue before voters is whether to renew the tax at a rate up to two mills of each $1 of valuation for five years.

Also on a local ballot in the Buckeye State is a referendum about red light and speed cameras. Voters in the city of Chillicothe will decide whether to prohibit the use of the automated enforcement tools.

TEXAS (polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Ballots in the city of College Station also will include a question on red light cameras. Voters there will decide whether to abolish use of the nine cameras posted at seven intersections in town since 2008.

WASHINGTON STATE (polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) 
A proposition on the ballot in the city of Bremerton would increase the price of vehicle tags by $30 for the next three years to pay for repaving roads.

In Asotin County, voters will decide whether to continue the sales tax to help fund the Asotin County Public Transportation Benefit Area. The tax is set to expire soon unless voters agree to renew it for another five years.

The proposition limits the use of revenue to funding the operation, maintenance and capital needs of the public transportation system.

Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will cast ballots to decide who will be their governor for the next four years. New Jersey voters also will decide on filling Assembly seats while Virginia voters will do the same for House seats.

Special elections are also being held in various states throughout the country. State legislative seats are on certain ballots in Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington. Two seats in the New Jersey Senate also are on certain ballots.

Later in the month, voters in a Mississippi district and Rhode Island district also will get a chance to cast ballots to fill a state legislative seat. The Mississippi election for House District 117 is Nov. 17 while the Rhode Island election for House District 10 is Nov. 10.

Other local ballot questions around the country this month include a pair of sales tax measures. On Nov. 10, voters in Plattsmouth, NE, will decide whether to add a half-cent to the city’s current sales tax rate. A portion of the revenue is expected to be used for street improvements and maintenance.

In Louisiana, voters in West Feliciana Parish head to the voting booth on Nov. 14 to decide whether to implement a 1-cent sales tax. A portion of the revenue would be used for roads and bridges.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the topics included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.