News & Media
Vol. 7, No. 4September 10, 2009
In This Issue …
- Island County WA Voters Approve Transit Sales Tax
- North Carolina Lawmakers Approve Transit Tax Legislation
- Washington Voters Face a Measure That Limits Spending
- CFTE and NAPTA to Host a Series of Training Webinars
Island County, WA Voters Approve Transit Tax
BUS SYSTEM WILL CONTINUE WITHOUT CUTS OR CONSOLIDATION
On August 18, voters in Island County, Washington approved a sales tax increase for Island Transit's bus system. The three-tenths of one percent increase, which boosts the local transit sales tax to 0.9 percent, was approved by 55% to 45%. Since opening in 1987 the system has operated fare-free, but has recently been struggling due to declining tax revenues. In the past year, Island Transit has consolidated routes and saved nearly $700,000.
The threat of more route consolidation and cuts has been abated by the recent measure. Revenues in 2010 are expected to be about $6.6 million, with the increase generating about $2.2 million of that. More than 1.1 million passengers used Island Transit in 2008. A tax increase was last approved by voters in 2000.
NC Lawmakers Approve Transit Tax Legislation
BALLOT MEASURES LIKELY IN 2010
On August 27, North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue signed into law a bill that would provide voters with new transit sales tax options. The bill, which was approved by the legislature in late August, is intended give county governments the option of levying up to a half-percent local-option sales tax to support public transit. The North Carolina House of Representatives voted 73-40 to sign off on the legislation, advancing the bill that would potentially generate approximately $73 million dollars in new funding for public transportation systems across the state. Senate lawmakers also approved the bill by a 35-9 vote. The legislation includes plans to increase bus service and to fund a light rail system.
Five urban counties, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange and Wake, could vote to raise local sales taxes by up to half a cent, while the remaining 94 counties would be allowed up to a quarter cent increase. In light of the economic downturn, many county officials are hesitant to put finance measures on the ballot this year and have decided to wait until at least 2010.
Spending Limit Measure on Ballot in WA
TRANSPORTATION CUTS EXPECTED IF PASSED
This November, voters in the state of Washington will be faced with a ballot measure that would limit spending for state, county and local governments. Initiative 1033 would prevent the budget from growing beyond the previous year's revenue plus local population growth and the national inflation index. Any revenue raised above the limit would be required to go to reducing property taxes in the following year. This spending limit would have the effect of drastically reducing many services, including transportation. If approved, the spending limit would begin in 2010, which is particularly concerning considering that this would set the base line for revenue to a year that has seen unusually low tax revenue due to the recession. The Constitution mandates that initiatives cannot be altered for two years after their passage without a supermajority.
Colorado passed a similar law in 1991 called the Tax Payers Bill of Right (TABOR). This law led to deep cuts to public schools, transportation, and children's health care. As a result, voters suspended the law in 2005 for five years. Similar initiatives have been defeated at the ballot in Maine, Nebraska, Oregon and, most recently, California. Although it is typically education and healthcare advocates who have most vocally opposed TABOR laws, public transit supporters may also see their cause threatened.
CFTE and NAPTA to Host Webinar Series
MORE INFORMATION COMING SOON!
The Center for Transportation Excellence, in partnership with the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates, will be hosting a series of training webinars for communities planning transportation ballot measures in the next election cycles. The first webinar will be scheduled this October. More information will be available online soon!