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TBED Ballot Issues and Bond Proposals Fare Well in '05 Election

November 14, 2005

Last Tuesday's election included a major bond package in Maine, a constitutional amendment in Ohio to complete the Third Frontier initiative, budget reform in New York, and additional TBED items in Iowa and Texas. Following are the results from some of the major ballot and bond issues within the states.

Iowa

Voters were divided on the issue of whether or not to form municipal communications utilities in their communities. According to the Des Moines Register, 17 communities passed the measure and 15 counties defeated it. The proposal, strongly supported by OpportunityIowa, does not commit the city to building or financing communications utilities, the article states. Instead, cities where the vote passed can now appoint boards to further evaluate the possibility of a utility.

OpportunityIowa and other proponents of the measure say that cities should have the right to offer utilities services, especially to keep up with the latest technology in broadband. Opponents argue these types of projects would waste municipal resources.

Maine

Voters passed four of the five ballot proposals within Gov. John Baldacci's $83 million Bond Package, including $20 million for jobs and economic growth. However, the $9 million bond proposal to raise money for upgrades and renovations at the state's community colleges and public universities failed by a mere 2,356 votes, according to an unofficial count tabulated by the Bangor Daily News.

Components of the $20 million economic stimulus bond include:

  • $12 million to the Department of Economic and Community Development to be divided between two funds: $8 million for the Maine Biomedical Research Fund to support capital infrastructure and equipment and $4 million to the Marine Infrastructure and Technology Fund to match federal and private funding for capital infrastructure grants to nonprofit marine research labs, institutions, state governmental and quasi-governmental agencies;
  • $5 million to the University of Maine system for the laboratory for surface science technology at the University of Maine, the graduate school for biomedical science at the UM Bangor campus, and the Educational Change Center within the UM system;
  • $1 to the Small Enterprise Growth Board to provide funding for the Small Enterprise Growth Fund to make equity investments in small Maine companies with the potential for high growth;
  • $1 million to the Department of Education to provide funding for the development of the Sunrise Business and Career Center; and,
  • $1 million for the New Century Community Program to invest in capital improvements.

The defeat of the Higher Education Bond was close enough to trigger a recount should supporters request one, according to the Bangor Daily News. The ballot proposal included $5 million for Maine's community colleges, $2 million for a Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine, and $2 million to upgrade laboratory space and enhance science laboratories and classrooms at five of Maine's public universities.

New York

A constitutional amendment that would change the state budget process, which was heavily criticized by Gov. George Pataki, was defeated 64 percent to 36 percent, the Times Union reports. The proposition would have changed the process by which the state budget is adopted, in particular, by providing for a contingency budget to take effect if a budget was not adopted before the beginning of a new fiscal year. Gov. Pataki said in a press release that the amendment would lead to higher taxes and irresponsible spending, while threatening New York's fiscal stability. The measure also would have encouraged late budgets, the governor added.

In addition to providing for a contingency budget, the measure sought to place limits on the amount of spending during each contingency period, eliminate the requirement that the legislature act on the governor's proposed appropriation bills and authorize the legislature to end the contingency period by adopting a multiple appropriation bill, and set forth requirements for the operation of a fiscal stabilization reserve fund from which money could be dispersed in a subsequent year.

According to an article in the Times Union, the proposal came to the ballot as a result of frustration among lawmakers unhappy with 20 late budgets in the last 21 years and dissatisfaction with a Court of Appeals ruling that sided with the governor's domination of the state budget.

Ohio

The final component of Gov. Bob Taft's Third Frontier Initiative passed 54 percent to 45 percent, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State. Issue One is a constitutional amendment declaring that local government infrastructure, financial assistance for R&D, and development of sites for industry, commerce and distribution are public purposes. In addition, it authorizes state institutions of higher education to issue bonds in support of R&D.

The $2 billion bond package, portions of which were rejected by voters two years ago, includes $500 million over the next seven years for research, development, and commercialization projects competitively selected by the Third Frontier Commission (see the May 2 issue of the Digest).

Texas

Voters approved a proposal that clarifies local economic development programs, loans or grants do not constitute or create debt. The measure, HJR 80, states that the legislature may provide for the creation of programs and make loans and grants of public money for the public purposes of development and diversification of the economy of the state, elimination of unemployment or underemployment, stimulation of agricultural innovation, or the development or expansion of transportation and commerce in the state.