Northwest Bond Election Roundup
Voters across the Northwest will decide several important bond initiatives on November 2nd. These include Washington�s $505-million bond for energy-efficient school retrofits, Oregon�s general obligation bonds and Alaska�s $400-million school bond.
Washington Washington voters will decide on Referendum Bill 52, which authorizes $505 million in bonds to finance construction and repair projects increasing energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings.
To earn the money, competitive grants are weighted heavily on the project’s energy savings. If approved, the state would expand the collection of sales tax on bottled water to help pay for a portion of the bonds and expect other future general state revenues to help too.
Rick Slunaker, director of government affairs for the Washington chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, says that his group has taken a neutral stance on the proposal, in part because of the high price tag.
While proponents claim job creations of up to 30,000, opponents say it is closer to 6,000. And with such a narrow focus—energy efficiency upgrades—Slunaker says it is tough to create an accurate number.
“One of the reasons we’re not taking a stance is that this is so narrowly focused, it is hard to say if the price tag would be worth it,” Slunaker says.
Anything with a high price tag has an uphill battle with the electorate, but Washington voters have also traditionally been heavily pro-education. But, as Slunaker points out, with a glut of initiatives on the ballot, this one may have an uphill road.
Initiative 1082 asks voters to allow employers to purchase private industrial insurance, eliminating the state’s monopoly on workers’ compensation.
Oregon Measure 72 adds a new exception in the state’s constitution allowing the state to issue general obligation bonds to finance acquisition, construction, remodeling, repair, equipping or furnishing of state-owned or operated property past the current limit of $50,000.
The proposal allows the state to take advantage of its low-interest bond rating, saving money and ideally creating more construction jobs. This measure has widespread, bipartisan support.
Alaska Bonding Proposition B could send $397.2 million toward Alaska’s building industry. Voters will decide whether to fund the bond for the purpose of “design and construction of library, education and educational research facilities.”
John MacKinnon, executive director of the Alaska chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, estimates that the bond could create as many as 930 construction jobs for three years.
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