photo courtesy California Dept. of water resources
California, facing historic drought, will build new dams, stormwater recovery and water storage projects with voter approval of a $7.5-billion bond initiative.
MGM Corp.
Rendering of planned $800-million casino resort in Springfield, Mass. approved by the state after voters rejected repeal of a 2011 expanded casino initiative.

With voter approval of nearly all bond finance issues on ballots earlier this month, construction is poisted to start on hundreds of millions worth of projects in water, education, health-care, transportation, entertainment and other sectors.

U.S. voters showed support for transportation improvements, approving 67% of initiatives that will add about $21 billion to project funds, says the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.The figure is slightly better than the 61% bond approval during the last mid-term election in 2010.

In the largest bond defeat, however, Austin voters nixed a $600-million urban rail and transportation measure that would have brought high-speed rail to central Texas. More than 57% of voters rejected it.

Californians, suffering into the fourth year of record drought, approved the biggest single state initiative—a $7.5-billion general-obligation bond measure for various water-related infrastructure projects that includes $7.1 billion of new state borrowing authority. 

Some 67% of voters favored it, in what the Association of California Water Agencies says is the largest margin for a water bond in recent memory.

The administration of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) says the bond should enable the state to leverage local and regional funds to provide between $25 billion and $38 billion for projects ranging from stormwater recovery programs to groundwater cleanup, two new dams, and water storage projects.The funds will be distributed through a state-run competitive grant process.

Education capital investment was again a favorite of local voters in Texas, with those in the city of Katy approving $748.1 million for facilities. Six new schools are set to open in the 2016-19 period. The Fort Bend and Garland school districts also will fund new investment, with about $940 million OK'd for classrooms, a new technical education center and technology upgrades, among other projects.

In an interesting reversal, the state's Lone Star community-college system won passage of a $485-million bond to fund new construction and upgrades over the next several years that will boost its growing focus on career and technically-focused education. Voters last year rejected a similar ballot issue.

The six-campus school has seen a substantial increase in the need for more workforce certification programs, as opposed to degrees, in construction and other fields. Among other things, the new funding will be used to build a new center to train students interested in careers, such as welding, machining and other industrial occupations.

With two-thirds of New York state voters approving the $2-billion "smart schools" measure, school districts now are making requests to finance technology equipment and facility upgrades, new and renovated pre-K space and installation of high-tech security in public and private school buildings.

But not all education initiatives will generate hoped-for project results. Colorado residents voted down most of the $1.2 billion in school bond measures, except in Boulder, which approved $576.5 million. It is the largest single school-bond request in state history. The district plans to upgrade each of its 55 schools and build a new transportation center.

Southern California voters also narrowly rejected Measure J, which would have provided $574 million to upgrade Orange County Community College District facilities. Only 54.2% of the needed 55% of voters approved it.

But supporters haven't given up. "There are thousands of ballots cast county-wide that remain to be counted," said Ned Doffoney, district chancellor. “Until we know that all the ballots from our District area have been counted and recorded, we will remain hopeful that we are able to close this tiny gap.”

Sizable K-12 school-construction bonds still managed to win in Calfornia, including three in San Luis Obispo County totaling $510 million.