Senate Committee Approves Constitutional Amendment to Set Voter Approval for Transportation Funding Measures at 55%
Sacramento – Today, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved Senate Constitutional Amendment 6 introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D- San Francisco) to set the voter approval threshold for transportation funding measures at 55%, down from the current threshold of 2/3, or 66.6%. This would put transportation funding measures on the same level as school funding measures, which were set at 55% by California voters in the year 2000. SCA 6 requires a 2/3 approval in the state legislature to be placed on the ballot, where it then requires majority approval by the voters. SCA 6 applies to both bonds and taxes.
SCA 6 was approved by a vote of 5-2 with Senators Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Ed Hernandez (D- West Covina), Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), and Ricardo Lara (D- Bell Gardens) in support. SCA 6 will now go to the Transportation and Housing Committee.
“With the federal government threatening to defund important public transportation projects like Caltrain electrification, we must do even more to empower our local governments to step up and fund the transportation projects that matter to their communities,” said Senator Wiener. “We need to tackle the astronomical deferred maintenance on our roads and bridges, and to expand the capacity of our public transportation systems so we can reduce gridlock on our streets and fight climate change by lowering air pollution. SCA 6 will give local communities greater flexibility and ability to raise funds to build out transportation systems where they live.”
SCA 6 is supported by transportation groups, environmental organizations, labor, and social justice advocates, including Transportation California, California Transit Association, California Alliance for Jobs, National Association of Electrical Contractors, Southern California Contractors Association, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Teamsters, the United Contractors, the Associated General Contractors, Move LA, California Conference of Machinists, and the California Conference Board of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
SCA 6 would amend the California Constitution to allow cities, counties, and special districts to raise new revenues for transportation projects by meeting 55% of the vote. This would lower the threshold from the current 2/3 (66%) for dedicated taxes and bonds, and place transportation funding measures on the same approval level as school facilities funding measures, which are currently set at 55%.
California roads and bridges are underfunded by $11 billion per year, and a 2015 Governor’s report calculated $59 billion in deferred maintenance. To address the significant funding gaps and deferred maintenance, local governments and special districts have been putting forth funding measures to fund transportation projects, generally sales taxes and bonds, which both require 2/3 vote approval. SCA 6 will create a more reasonable threshold for gaining approval from voters for public transportation needs. In November 2016 alone, measures in San Diego, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Placer, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties all failed to reach 2/3 approval, but broke 55%.
Under SCA 6, to qualify for the 55% threshold, a funding measure has to be fully dedicated to transportation-related projects and programs. Transportation funding is usually dedicated to capital, which includes surface rail lines, subways, and roads, or operations, which includes bus maintenance, buying new buses or rail cars, upgrading existing metro lines, increasing service, and supplementing reduced fare programs. This constitutional amendment encompasses both.
SCA 6 will require a 2/3 approval by the State Legislature to be placed on the ballot. During that election, the measure must be approved by a majority of the voters.