Success of local measures means money for infrastructure


November 9, 2018: The big California transportation news to come out of midterm elections was the failure of Proposition 6, an effort to roll back recent increases in the gas tax that are projected to produce about $5 billion a year for road maintenance and other transportation projects. The proposition was defeated 57 percent to 43 percent. 

As the Sacramento Bee noted, because the proposition was retroactive to the beginning of 2017, it would have repealed Senate Bill 1, which allocated about $1 billion for Sacramento region transportation projects. 

Sacramento Area Council of Governments chairman Jay Schenirer welcomed voters’ willingness to fund improvements and maintenance for California roads and transit.  

“Preserving this funding will mean long-term cost-saving for all members of our community as efficient transportation helps everyone, from young people reaching for their goals to helping commuters get to work more easily,” he said. 

Prop 6 may have grabbed the headlines but in the Sacramento region, most revenue-raising measures passed.  

As we had noted, at least one jurisdiction in five of the six counties in our region was seeking some type of revenue increase. El Dorado County voters rejected a hotel tax increase but most others passed. El Dorado, Colfax and Placerville voters approved marijuana business taxes, the cities of Sacramento, Roseville, West Sacramento and Yuba County passed sales tax measures while Folsom’s failed, and Rocklin’s voters authorized the continuance of a local parcel tax.

Sacramento Region        
Jurisdiction Title Category Yes Results Pass/Fail
El Dorado County Measure J Hotel tax 44.21% F
El Dorado County Measure N Marijuana tax 64.68% P
Placerville Measure M Marijuana tax 67.17% P
Rocklin Measure A Parcel tax for parks (2/3) 77.43% P
Roseville Measure B Sales tax 61.41% P
Colfax Measure C Marijuana tax 65.78% P
Folsom Measure E Sales tax 28.97% F
City of Sacramento Measure U Sales tax 55.64% P
West Sacramento Measure N Sales tax 50.50% P
Yuba County Measure K Sales tax 51.89% P
Other Local Measures in California        
Jurisdiction Title Category Yes Results Pass/Fail
Oakland Measure W Tax on vacant parcels and condominiums  (2/3) 68.65% P
Richmond Measure T Tax on vacant parcels  (2/3) 58.17% F
San Mateo County Measure W Sales tax for transportation improvements  (2/3) 66.18%  
San Benito County Measure G Sales tax for transportation (2/3) 67.88% P
Marin County Measure AA Extension of existing sales tax for transportation (2/3) 74.70% P
San Jose Measure T Public Safety and Infrastructure Bond (2/3) 69.04% P
Measures Nationwide        
Jurisdiction Title Category Yes Results Pass/Fail
Colorado Proposition 109: “Fix Our Damn Roads” Transportation bonds 38.81% F
Colorado Proposition 110: “Let’s Go Colorado” Sales tax for transportation 40.26% F

 Elsewhere in the state, San Benito County voters approved a one percent sales tax increase to fund roads and transportation and Marin voters renewed their transportation sales tax while the fate of San Mateo County’s Measure W, a 0.5 percent sales tax for 30 years to fund road improvements, transit services, and implementation of the San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan, is still too close to call at the time of writing. 

In general, “running infrastructure campaigns in an election year dramatically improves their chances of passing,” Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told CityLab.  

As CityLab reported, “local ballot measures that ask voters to tax themselves are an increasingly popular means of getting transportation projects off the ground.” And voters usually say yes. “Over the past 10 years, about 82 percent of these measures have passed,” said Alison Black, a senior vice president and chief economist at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

Nationwide, at least 314 transportation-related measures appeared on ballots, according to the Eno Center for Transportation. Taken together, these measures represented more than $50 billion in transportation investments in dozens of states, including roads and bridges, public transit, cycling and pedestrian paths, airports, seaports, and more. 

And most major measures passed, according to Eno.