By Kevin Pula
While the passage of the Federal FAST Act provided some long-term assurance for states, it was not the silver bullet for the transportation infrastructure funding dilemma in America.
Following one of the most active years in 2015, legislatively speaking, for state transportation funding policy, 2016 has seen little in the way of state legislation to deal with the sizeable transportation infrastructure spending gap.
However, a review by NCSL has found that in some instances, lawmakers have asked voters to weigh in on the debate. Specifically, voters in Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine and New Jersey will be asked to cast their vote on ballot measures dealing with transportation funding issues.
Statewide Amendment 12 on Alabama ballots will ask voters whether the state constitution should be amended to allow a municipality in Baldwin County to incorporate a toll road and bridge authority. The authority would be a public corporation and be authorized to issue revenue bonds to finance the construction and operation of toll roads or bridges in the county.
The Illinois Legislature approved House Joint Resolution 36 which will now be placed on the ballot for approval by the voters. Constitution Amendment 36 will ask voters if a so called “transportation lockbox” should be created in order to constitutionally limit the use of transportation related revenues to their stated purpose; disallowing state lawmakers from diverting money away from transportation projects.
Amendment 5 on Louisiana ballots will ask voters whether the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund should be created. This fund would receive deposits of recurring mineral and corporate tax revenues and would be restricted for use on construction projects and transportation infrastructure.
If approved, Maine’s Transportation Bond, Question 6 will authorize the state to issue up to $100 million in new bonds for transportation projects. $80 million of the bonds will provide funds for highways and roads while the remaining $20 million will be designated towards ports, aviation, rail and pedestrian facilities. In 2015, Maine voters approved a similar ballot measure, Legislative Document 1415, authorizing the issuance of $85 million in bonds for transportation.
New Jersey lawmakers are currently debating policy options to increase transportation funding, including an increase to the state motor fuel tax. Regardless of the result of this debate, voters will decide this fall how revenues from a motor fuel tax should be spent. Public Question 2 will determine whether the state constitution will be amended to dedicate all motor fuel tax revenues to transportation projects. Similar to Illinois’ “lockbox” option, this is one strategy to alleviate transportation budget shortfalls by ensuring transportation revenues are being spent for their intended purpose.
See all the transportation ballot measures and others by visiting NCSL’s Ballot Measure Database and stay up-to-date on transportation issues by visiting NCSL’s Transportation webpage and NCSL’s Transportation Funding Deep Dive. Election Day certainly will not be the last we hear about transportation policy.
Kevin Pula is a Policy Specialist with NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation program.