WRITTEN BY: Jim Erkel, Land Use & Transportation Director
At baseball games, vendors yell out that “you can’t tell the players without a program.” If you are a political junkie like me, you will be watching the presidential race but also paying attention to down-ballot action including state and local measures that relate to many different issues such as education, health care, the minimum wage, marijuana use, and gun control. If you’re a baseball fan like me, you will need a program to help you keep score on the measures that you consider important.
Here are several programs on issues of significance to MCEA:
TRANSPORTATION – I’ve prepared a list of 70 transportation-related ballot measures from 59 jurisdictions. It includes major transit funding packages in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and Atlanta. These regions compete economically against the Twin Cities and, if the measures succeed, will be supporting transit build-outs with chunks of sales tax that in some cases will be six times what the Twin Cities invests in its regional transit system. The most striking thing about the measures, though, is how many different funding mechanisms they would tap for road construction and maintenance. Rather than raising a state-level gas tax, states and communities are desperately seeking to raise tolls, sales taxes, parcel taxes, lodging taxes, gravel fees, utility fees, cigarette taxes, and even new taxes on non-medical marijuana. You can check it all out at the bottom of this blog post.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING –Recently, a $25 million fund was established in the Twin Cities to help preserve existing affordable housing stocks. It is interesting to note that a number of the transportation ballot measures I identified also seek to fund affordable housing needs. Instead of a revolving fund of $25 million, one of the ballot measures I identified would annually raise $50 million to create exits from homelessness and moving the homeless to more stable situations. There are a number of measures that would specifically fund or regulate affordable housing solutions. In one, $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds would be authorized to fund affordable housing solutions. The Twin Cities’ $25 million fund will need to revolve almost fifty times to match that kind of a regional investment in affordable housing. To see how other regions are seeking to fund or regulate affordable housing solutions, check out a list of measures prepared by Cheryl Young, a senior economist at Trulia here https://www.trulia.com/blog/trends/election-nation-16-preview/.
LAND CONSERVATION – It is not unusual for there to be a number of state and local measures on the ballot that seek to protect or restore natural areas, watersheds, working farms and forests, neighborhood parks, open space, and other lands that define and enrich communities’ character. You can check out a list of conservation-minded measures prepared by the Trust for Public Land at https://www.tpl.org/2016-conservation-ballot-measures.
CLIMATE – In this category, there is a big measure and a small one. The big measure is Washington’s Initiative 732 which would establish a carbon tax and return the revenues through tax credits for low-income households and an across-the-board reduction of Washington’s sales tax. It is opposed by many environmental and clean energy organizations who prefer a carbon fee and reinvestment approach in which funds could be invested in clean energy opportunities and other climate solutions. You can check it out at https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/OnlineVotersGuide/Measures?language=en&electionId=63&countyCode=xx&ismyVote=False&electionTitle=2016%20General%20Election%20#ososTop. The small measure is an advisory referendum in Middleton, Wisconsin. It poses two questions – (i) should the city act to reduce the threat of climate change through its decisions and actions, and (ii) should the city endorse a federal carbon fee and dividend program which is somewhat similar to Washington’s Initiative 732. You can check it out at http://www.middletonclimatereferendum.com/index.html.
CLICK HERE to view 2016 Transportation Ballot Measures