Last week’s election results will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the nation, but what do they mean closer to home? From a blue wave that swept NJ’s federal reps, to a Democratic takeover of the New York State House and Senate to Connecticut’s new governor, to ballot measures on Charter Reform in NYC, and lockbox for transportation in CT, RPA’s issues were on the ballot and on the platforms of newly elected officials across the region.
Finally, voters across New York City and many cities across the country were met with long lines and even longer waits at their polling places – due to broken ballot machines and rejected ballots. These inefficiencies in our voting process not only slow down results on a local and state levels, but they are proof that our system on a national scale must be improved in order to ensure that all citizens have their voices heard.
Take a look below at other outcomes from Tuesday’s midterm elections, and how RPA plans to continue advocating for issues around transportation, community engagement and affordable housing across our region.
- New York State Legislature
News reports are saying that the takeover of the New York State Senate by Democrats means a new funding plan for the MTA, including congestion pricing, is more likely to win state approval. However, many insiders believe gaining enough supportive votes will remain complicated, since incumbent outer borough and suburban elected officials remain divided on the issue. It is likely that a new cohort of more progressive leaders from New York City, including Andrew Gounardes, Zellnor Myrie, Julia Salazar, and Alessandra Biaggi who all endorsed congestion pricing in their campaigns, means we will see more vocal support for congestion pricing. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has put creating a 21st century transit system and finding a sustainable funding source near the top of his 2019 priorities as well.
- Charter Reform
On election day, New Yorkers overwhelming voted to change the City Charter (its constitution) to reform campaign finance laws, create a new civic engagement commission, and implement term limits for community board members. RPA strongly endorsed the second two items as important components of increasing citizen participation in planning. In addition to providing more resources and coordination for community engagement, establishing a Civic Engagement Commission means NYC will see city-wide Participatory Budgeting beginning July 1, 2020. Reforms to community boards will provide more residents the opportunity to serve and ensure that boards are more representative of the communities they represent. This is just the beginning of the charter reform story! The NYC Council established their own commission which is taking on a more holistic review of the Charter and will present new ballot proposals in November 2019. They are currently taking public input, so visit www.charter2019.nyc to get involved!
- In the Garden State, the blue wave continued – where three House seats were flipped, giving Democrats control of the House. New Jerseyans also voted in support of authorizing the School Projects Bond – which will designate $500M for project grants dedicated to vocational school, college career and technical education. During a speech announcing his 2019 budget, Governor Phil Murphy proposed more funding to expand educational opportunities from Pre-K all the way to college. This measure will not only expand job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents, but also diversify the state economy with good jobs for people with a variety of skills. Unfortunately, when it came to increasing funding for open space and historic preservation, New Jersey voters rejected five of the 13 proposals that could have established an Open Space Tax Trust Fund, set a dedicated tax for open space and possibly increased it. As we’ve outlined in the Fourth Regional Plan, now more than ever is the time to preserve our most cherished spaces due to the threat of climate change.
- After a race focused on the condition of the state’s economy, Democratic candidate, Ned Lamont has been elected Governor of Connecticut. During the campaign, Lamont promised to incentivize municipalities to share services as part of his plan to cut property tax rates. He says he wants to come up with an incentive structure that will encourage cities and towns to cut their budgets by sharing functions and services. The Fourth Regional Plan’s vision for equitable growth offers a roadmap towards solving the state’s fiscal challenges that were at the center of the hotly contested race between Lamont and Republican candidate, Bob Stefanowki. RPA looks forward to working with the new administration to advance public policies to address this crisis by fueling job growth and expanding housing choice in Connecticut.
- An overwhelming majority of Connecticut voters supported approval of an amendment to the state constitution to create a lockbox to protect the special transportation fund. The amendment ensures that funds earmarked for mass transit, roads and bridges can’t be swept to cover shortfalls in other parts of the state budget. Approval of this referendum is a critical step towards bringing the state’s transportation system to a state of good repair and securing funding for improvements necessary to address future needs.
A Democratic majority in the House should provide a clearer pathway for transportation funding for much-needed projects like Gateway. A divided Congress will still mean some challenges ahead.
Transportation Ballot Measures
According to the Eno Center for Transportation voters approved $30 billion for transportation at the ballot box on election day. Of the 138 measures that were not basic road millage initiatives, voters passed 94 of them, or 68.1%. Forty failed (30%), while four are still too close to call. Though a bit of a mixed bag, these results continue the trend of local voters agreeing to tax themselves to pay for better infrastructure.
In one of the more disappointing losses on election day, Washington State voters rejected what would be the nation’s first ever statewide carbon pricing program. The fee would have raised more than $1 billion annually to be spent on air quality and energy projects; water quality and forest health projects; and to create a fund for community investments. It would have also helped Washington State accelerate its transition towards more renewable, less polluting forms of energy. The Seattle Times notes that the oil industry contributed most of the more than $31 million raised by the “No on 1631” campaign.