The holiday season started a little earlier this year for the construction industry. Voters seemed to be in the spirit of giving during the November elections and offered up a lot of reasons to be optimistic about 2015 and beyond.
Throughout the three states in our territory (California, Arizona, New Mexico), billions of dollars in bonds and sales tax measures were passed to help repair our ailing infrastructure systems and upgrade our institutional buildings. The average approval rate of these local ballot issues was two to one.
The most notable issue on the ballot in any state was a $7.5 billion water bond in CA. Known as Proposition 1, the water bond passed with nearly 67% voter approval. The two biggest funding areas of Proposition 1 are for storage ($2.7B) and watershed and flood control ($1.89B). $810 million of the proposition goes toward regional projects for conservation, stormwater capture and other programs to increase supplies. In total, Proposition 1 is expected to leverage another $20 billion in local and regional funds to address California’s water needs. Fact sheets and other resources on Proposition 1 can be found on the Association of CA Water Agencies website.
Although Proposition 1 was the largest bond issue before the voters, three others that passed were each worth more than $500 million. In Maricopa County, Arizona Proposition 480 was passed by the voters will help fund ($935 million) the construction of new and upgraded facilities for the Maricopa (AZ) Integrated Health System. Also in Arizona, the city of Mesa voters passed a series of measures to upgrade and improve the city’s utility systems. The $580 million bond requests commit $315.7 million to improve the city’s water systems, $178 to waste water systems, and the remainder to their gas and electric systems. Lastly, North Orange County Community College District’s Measure J provides $574 million to upgrade existing or construct new facilities at the school. Measure J passed by 15 votes, so don’t ever think that your vote doesn’t count.
Beyond Measure J, California was awash in school bonds in 2014. In all, 157 local school ballot measures were put to the voters. 128 times the voters approved the ballot question. As a result, more than $14 billion worth of bonds will be issued, creating a lot of school construction up and down the state. A list of the school bonds can be found here.
New Mexicans also got behind the construction industry by supporting three general obligation bonds. The three bond questions (A,B,C) were approved by an average of 62% of the voters. These bonds will provide nearly $170 million for improvements to senior facilities, higher education campuses and tribal schools throughout New Mexico.
Even sales tax measures were passed in some municipalities. Proposition 403 in Coconino County, Arizona proposed a 0.3% sales tax increase to fund a backlog of road repairs. It passed with 64% voter approval. Alameda County, CA voters were presented with Measure BB, a half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation expenses. The ballot initiative received 70% voter approval. Measure BB creates a 30 year Transportation Expenditure Plan and $7.8 billion in spending to improve and maintain transportation infrastructure and systems in the county. A copy of the county’s plan can be found here.
While the politicians in Washington, DC can’t seem to figure out the importance of maintaining and upgrading the infrastructure of our communities, the voters clearly understand the issue. More often than not, when voters are given the facts about our failing infrastructure and the chance to fix it, they make the right decision. The November 2014 election results clearly illustrate that point. Let’s hope this trend continues to the benefit of our communities and the advancement of our industry.