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November 17, 2016
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Local transportation ballot measures fare well in the general election

On November 9, voters considered numerous state and local referenda related to funding transportation systems. CMAP continually monitors national efforts to provide adequate and reliable funding for transportation. This Policy Update reviews several major transportation-related ballot initiatives with potential implications for the CMAP region.

Voters considered numerous transportation measures

Nationally, 57 transportation ballot measures sought to secure additional funding for transportation,  including an estimated $200 billion for transit. Of those, 33 were sales tax measures, seven bond issuances, four advisory referenda, four property tax measures, and two constitutional amendments, according to data compiled by the Center for Transportation Excellence. Of the 57 ballot measures, 39 were approved. Additional ballot initiatives related to consolidating regional transit agencies or establishing new transportation entities as well as increasing the gas tax.

Some of the high-profile initiatives would support major transit expansion programs or govern the use of existing transportation funding sources.  For example, Illinois and New Jersey each voted overwhelmingly to amend its constitution to ensure that transportation revenues only fund transportation-related expenses.

Initiatives to invest in transit garnered approval in diverse areas of the country.  Residents of Los Angeles County supported Measure M to fund the implementation of the county's long-range transportation plan, including an allocation of at least $30 billion for transit over 40 years. In Indianapolis, voters elected to raise an estimated  $56 million annually for IndyGo -- a regional bus network -- through an income tax. The ambitious Seattle Region Sound Transit 3 -- a combination 0.5-cent sales tax, 0.8 percent license tab increase, and property tax increase of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation -- passed with 55 percent of the vote.

However, some initiatives failed.  By a margin of 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, residents of the Detroit region narrowly voted against a measure to fund the Regional Transit Authority Master Plan through a property tax increase for residents of four counties. In San Diego County, voters rejected a 0.5 cent sales tax to fund transportation projects that would include highways, open space, and transit, among other needs.

Funding infrastructure in northeastern Illinois

The CMAP region faces compounding funding challenges for its transportation system. Although the Illinois Constitutional Amendment regarding transportation revenues (HJRCA36) will prevent future sweeps or diversions, CMAP analysis found that the increase in available revenues will be marginal. As outlined in a  memo to the CMAP board, the amendment is ambiguous regarding eligible uses of transportation revenues that need to be addressed to ensure we have a strong, equitable, multimodal regional transportation system.

If the national election is an indicator of local sentiment, it did show that voters support transportation and infrastructure spending.  By ensuring that user fee revenues will be invested in the transportation system, the amendment may incent the legislature to increase the gas tax, develop motor fuel tax alternatives, and commit to performance-based funding in the future. 

To keep Illinois competitive in a global economy, GO TO 2040 calls for enhanced transportation revenues to meet the funding demands of the region's transportation system, supporting user-fee revenue sources. Ensuring adequate and sustainable transportation revenues is an integral part of the ON TO 2050 development process. CMAP's recent Transportation System Funding Concepts strategy paper discusses funding alternatives and points to next steps to develop ON TO 2050's financial plan for transportation.



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