Nearly one-third of California’s 58 counties will ask voters to approve transportation taxes this November, part of a record-setting number of measures appearing on ballots across the nation. Voters in California counties — including Los Angeles County with its $121 billion Measure M — are being asked to approve tax measures to help pay for fixing potholes, improving freeways, and adding rail lines, buses and bike/pedestrian paths.

While California is in the top three for the number of measures adopted and being proposed, the trend has spread across the country as federal and state transportation infrastructure dollars shrink, failing to keep up with exploding demand.

Jason Jordan, executive director of Center for Transportation Excellence (CTE), a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., said “2016 will be a record-breaking year for transportation ballot measures. There will be 70 ballot measures in the United States.” Jordan’s group has been keeping track of local transit tax measures since 2000 and has seen the numbers rise steadily. If all pass this year, they would add $175 billion in new investments in transportation.

Taxes for transportation have a healthy approval rate. The CTE calculated that about 70 percent have passed since 2000. “These are local people being asked to raise local taxes; so that is impressive,” Jordan said.

Many factors contribute to the popularity of local transportation tax measures. The decline of federal and state transportation funding is at the top of the list, experts say, followed by a pragmatic need to raise dollars to alleviate traffic woes and repair roadways.

California has a $57 billion, 10-year shortfall in maintaining freeways and state highways.

And federal funding is not keeping up with demand — in California during the last fiscal year, local funding equaled $14 billion, twice the amount of federal and state funds.

Transit tax measures are often successful because people will vote for higher taxes if they know the money will be used for specific, local projects, said Darren Kettle, executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission. “Voters see that money spent here and there are jobs here. And because it is close to home, nobody else can take it,” he said.

Already, 20 California counties have passed local tax measures for transportation. “In California, it does suggest there is something that is appealing to local voters. People are beginning to see the fruits of earlier investments. They then want more of it,” Jordan explained.

Source: Press Telegram