By Kevin Pula
Three high-profile ballot measures to increase transportation funding failed druing the midterm elections in Colorado and Missouri on Tuesday, but California voters upheld a $5.2 billion transportation tax increase.
Rocky Road Ahead
Colorado voters overwhelmingly opposed
. Proposition 110, a bonding measure along with a sales tax increase, was opposed by just under 60 percent of voters, only slightly outpacing Prop 109, a smaller bonding measure with no tax increase, which failed 61 percent to 39 percent.
Even in light of the emphatic “No,” we already know Centennial State voters will be asked about transportation funding in the 2019 elections. That’s because the Colorado General Assembly included language in SB 1 (2018) laying out a contingency plan if both ballot measures failed.
The plan calls for a legislatively referred measure to hit the ballots in 2019 seeking approval for $2.34 billion in bonding—less than either of the 2018 measures—as well as certain general fund transfers to the transportation fund.
Colorado’s constitution requires voter approval of any tax increase or for the issuing of new debt.
Show Me State Shows Gas Taxes the Door
Missouri voters rebuked (53 percent “no” vote) a 10-cent gas tax increase sent to the ballot by the state legislature (HB 1460). Proposition D was on the ballot due to constitutional requirements for voter approval of any tax increase above a certain threshold.
It is unknown what the response will be within the state legislature. However, it’s a good bet that transportation funding will return to the chamber floors in some fashion, albeit carrying a scarlet letter from the voters.
California Gold Strike
California voters voiced a different opinion on transportation funding. Proposition 6, an effort to repeal legislatively enacted tax increases for transportation, failed with around 55 percent of voters choosing to keep the new taxes.
This decision is likely to carry more weight nationally than either result in Colorado or Missouri. California’s fight over gas taxes garnered national attention from political stakeholders. Some view it as a bellwether decision on any prospects of a national revenue increase for transportation. And both congressional Democrats and the Trump administration have signaled the potential for a renewed effort on infrastructure next year.
Stay tuned to the NCSL Blog for further coverage of the 2018 elections, and for additional analysis on the election’s implications on transportation moving forward.
Kevin Pula is a Senior Policy Specialist with NCSL’s Transportation Program.