The outcome of state ballot initiatives, including funding for projects and issues that could affect business, seemed to favor construction interests in most cases, on Nov. 2. With TEA-21 passage stalled in Washington, D.C. and likely to face continued battles in a second Bush administration, transportation funding measures were high priorities in many states, with a total of $28 billion proposed on ballots for state and local projects, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. ARTBA says 55 transportation funding measures appeared on 21 state ballots on Nov. 2, about 40% more than in 2002, with 80% asking voters to "initiate, extend or increase" taxes, ARTBA contends.
But not all measures were successful. About 78% of bond and tax measures passed, but this inclues all 12 bond measures proposed to raise capital for transportation projects.
Voters did make it clear in two states, however, that highway user revenue should not fund non-transportation items. Nearly 84% of Californians said so, and 79% of voters in Missouri, who overwhelmingly approved Constitutional Amendment 3. "People were concerned about the quality of Missouri roads," said Jewell Patek, a consultant who managed the campaign to enact the amendment. "This frees up $1.3 billion in new funding for construction and maintenance." The state had been using highway user fees to fund other agencies or channeling it into the state's general fund.
Voters in Florida may not be traveling on high-speed trains any time soon. In addition to seeing his brother re-elected, Gov. Jeb Bush was gifted with the ballot-box defeat of the state's high-speed bullet train, a project that was constitutionally approved by voters four years ago but one that Gov. Bush considered a $25-billion boondoggle. However, Miami-Dade County voters will jumpstart the local construction market by approving a $3 billion general obligation bond that could fund up to 300 projects over the next 15 years, officials say.
On another front, voters in Colorado decided not to support a measure that would have lifted caps on damages that homeowners could have collected from contractors for shoddy construction. Amendment 34 was rejected by a 3 to 1 margin, which had generated a fierce battle in the state between homeowner and homebuilder interests. The latter group nationally raised more than $3 billion to fight the measure, but homeowners have not given up the fight for compensation with problem construction, according to press reports in Denver.