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Economic Development Ballot Initiatives

October 27, 2016

While economic development issues have been taking a back seat to other discussions surrounding the presidential election, two state ballot initiatives address these issues directly and several other states feature educational initiatives. Engineering facilities at the University of Rhode Island and biomedical research in Montana would advance if ballot initiatives in those states pass on November 8. Both states are seeking passage of bond issues that would build facilities that would be used to expand or build facilities that benefit students or researchers in engineering and biomedical fields.

If passed, a $45.5 million bond issue in Rhode Island would be used for capital investments with $25.5 million slated for renovation and construction on one of the University of Rhode Island’s oldest College of Engineering buildings, completing a second phase of a comprehensive program to update its engineering complex. Another $20 million would be allocated for the university’s Affiliated Innovation Campus Program, to build one or more innovation campuses involving business collaborations with the university, and possibly other higher education institutions, where cutting-edge research can be turned into new products, services and businesses.

Montana also is seeking passage of a bond issue that would create the Montana Biomedical Research Authority to oversee and review grant applications for the purpose of promoting the development of therapies and cures for brain diseases and injuries and mental illnesses. The initiative would allow the creation of state bond debts for $20 million per year for 10 years. Grants that would be funded through the bonds could be used to pay the costs of peer-reviewed biomedical research and therapy development, recruiting scientists and students and acquiring innovative technologies at Montana biomedical research organizations.

Arkansas has a legislative referendum calling for the removal of caps on the amount of bonds the state is allowed to issue to an entity to help finance economic development projects and services. The issue, if passed, also would permit local governments to develop infrastructure with the intent of attracting private business.

Alabama has a legislatively referred constitutional amendment referendum that would give communities the power to designate certain areas as 21st Century Manufacturing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones in an effort to increase economic development throughout the state. The amendment gives any municipality or county that has established a tax increment district within a Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone the sole discretion to determine the amount and type of consideration to be received for the redevelopment, rehabilitation, or conservation of property disposed of or for the benefit of private interest with funds collected from such tax increment district.

Additionally, several states’ ballots feature education funding initiatives:

  • Oregon seeks to increase its annual minimum tax on corporations with more than $25 million in annual sales, proposing (but not requiring) that some of the new $3 billion in revenue would go to public schools. 
  • Oklahoma proposes raising the state sales tax 1 percentage point to 5.5 percent, designated for a new education fund, with half of the money raised going toward teacher salaries.
  • California features a bond initiative that authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds, which would be used for the new construction and modernization of K-12, charter school, vocation education, and California Community Colleges facilities.
  • In Maine, Question 2 would add a 3 percent tax on income of about $200,000 to create a state fund that would provide direct support for student learning in K-12 education and improve the ability of the state to reach its annual target of providing 55 percent of the total cost of funding K-12 public education. 
  • In New Mexico, Bond Question C appears on the ballot authorizing $142.356 million in bond issuance for certain higher educational, tribal, and special schools capital improvements and acquisitions. 

And there is a hotly debated constitutional amendment on the ballot in Georgia that would allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to increase performance through the creation of an Opportunity School District.

The Digest will have results on all of these ballot initiatives in the November 10, 2016, issue.

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