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Transportation Funding Measures Gain Traction in 2020 Elections

By Jonathon Bates | Dec. 16, 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

Transportation fared well at the ballot box in 2020, with statewide measures getting the approval of voters in Arizona, Arkansas and Maine.  

In Arizona, transportation was linked to cannabis via Proposition 207, which voters approved, bringing the total number of jurisdictions to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana to 15 states and three territories. Under the new law, 25.4% of the sales tax imposed on recreational marijuana purchases will be dedicated to transportation. Money will be deposited into the Highway User Revenue Fund, which helps fund state and local transportation projects. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the new measure is expected to generate almost $41 million annually for such projects. The measure was approved with 60% of the vote.  

In Arkansas, voters permanently extended a 0.5% sales tax for transportation by approving Issue 1. Originally passed by voters in 2012, the tax was slated to sunset after 10 years. Its extension is projected to generate approximately $294 million annually, according to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. The measure was approved with 55% of the vote. This is the fourth transportation measure Arkansas voters have passed at the ballot box since 1999.

Voters in Maine approved another round of transportation bonding by approving Question 2 in July 2020. The measure provides $105 million that will be used to match an additional $275 million in federal and other funds for transportation projects. State bond revenues will be provided to Maine’s Department of Transportation. The tax will funnel $90 million into improving highways and bridges and $15 million to public transit, rail, aviation, port, harbor and marine projects. The measure was approved with 78.2% of the vote. Maine voters have approved several similar bonding measures over the last 10 years.  

Going forward, lawmakers seeking support for new transportation investments are likely to continue putting statewide funding measures before voters.

Jonathon Bates is a policy associate in NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation Program.

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