ELECTION 2015: Voters in four states decide on transportation questions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Voters in states around the country on Tuesday, Nov. 3, had their say on various transportation-related initiatives. Land Line tracked measures covering statewide, county and local ballot initiatives. Here is a state-by-state recap of how some initiatives fared on ballots.

In Texas, 83 percent of voters approved a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

Passage of Proposition 7 will send money already available to the state to the state highway fund. Specifically, up to $2.5 billion more each year will be directed for road and bridge work via the state’s sales tax starting in September of 2017.

The state’s sales tax now accounts for more than $27 billion annually in revenue for the general fund.

Proposition 7 authorizes sales tax revenue to be used to aid non-toll road projects and to make payments on debt that the highway department has accumulated in recent years.

The state’s 6.25-percent vehicle sales tax will be tapped to raise another $250 million annually for road work.

Starting in September of 2019, 35 percent of the revenue above $5 billion that is raised each year from the vehicle tax will be used for transportation projects.

The vehicle sales tax revenue now is applied solely to the general fund to pay for state programs and education.

More than two-thirds of voters in the state of Washington voted in favor of repealing an increase in the state’s fuel tax rate. However, Advisory Vote 12 was a nonbinding question to find out whether voters want to repeal or maintain a fuel tax rate increase of 11.9 cents.

The state Legislature approved the increase that will be phased in by the summer of 2017. The first 7 cents of the increase took effect Aug. 1.

In Maine, nearly three-quarters of all voters chose to approve an $85 million bond initiative for highway and bridge work.

Passage of Question 3 authorizes the use of $17 million in general fund bonds to construct, reconstruct or rehabilitate high-priority highways; $46 million will be allotted for bridge replacements and rehabilitation; and another $17 million will be applied for improvements that include the state’s ports, harbors, and transit and freight rail.

Voters in counties throughout Utah cast ballots on Tuesday that included a question about whether to enact a 0.25 percent general sales tax to help pay for local transportation needs.

Proposition 1 on ballots in 17 of the state’s 29 counties asked voters whether to “provide funding for transportation improvements such as roads, sidewalks, trails, maintenance, bus and rail service and safety features.”

Counties that approved the tax were Carbon, Davis, Duchesne, Grand, Rich, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Tooele and Weber.

Counties that rejected the tax were Beaver, Box Elder, Juab, Morgan, Uintah and Utah. Voters in Salt Lake County also appear to have rejected the tax question with 50.9 percent voting in opposition.

Also, voters in two states elected governors for the next four years. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant won re-election over truck driver Robert Gray, a Democrat, with a two-thirds majority.

Kentucky voters elected Republican Matt Bevin over Democrat Jack Conway with 52 percent of the vote. Bevin will replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Louisiana voters will decide later this month on a candidate to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. The race in the Bayou State pits Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards against Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

For more 2015 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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