Ballot Measures and Higher Ed

A list of the referendum votes that matter to colleges and universities: bonds, taxes, governance and more.

November 2, 2016
 

Overshadowed by a contentious presidential race and numerous statewide races are ballot items that could have a meaningful impact on higher education in numerous states. Here are summaries:

Alabama

  • Amendment 1: In an attempt to increase diversity on Auburn University’s Board of Trustees, this amendment would add two additional members. Currently, there are 14 members, 12 of whom are men;  and 13 of whom are white. There are no race or gender requirements on the proposed new seats. The amendment would also ensure that no more than three members of the board have terms that expire in the same year.

Alaska

  • Ballot Measure No. 2: This measure would let Alaska issue bonds for postsecondary student loans (currently, the law only allows state debt for capital projects, housing loans for veterans and military defense). This would be an amendment to the state constitution.

Arkansas

  • Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6: This measure would legalize medical marijuana. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be allocated to technical institutes, vocational schools and workforce training.

California

  • Proposition 51: This measure would create a School Facilities Fund -- funded by the sale of bonds -- that would give $2 billion to California Community Colleges to construct and renovate facilities (along with another $7 billion for K-12 schools).
  • Proposition 55: This measure would extend personal income taxes for community colleges (and health care and public K-12) after funding was lost in the recession. The tax would apply to single tax filers who make at least $263,000 in taxable income and joint filers who make at least $526,000 in taxable income. It's predicted that the tax would generate between $4 billion and $9 billion in revenue each year. 
  • Proposition 56: This measure would increase tobacco taxes an additional $2 per pack; $40 million from the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 Fund would go to the University of California to fund medical education. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of primary care and emergency physicians trained in California. 
  • Proposition 64: This measure would legalize marijuana. The state will use part of the money it earns from marijuana taxes ($10 million per year) to fund to research about the “implementation and effect of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”

Colorado

  • Amendment 72: This measure would increase the tobacco tax from 84 cents to $1.75 per pack. Of the funds generated in its first year, $17 million would go to a fund for student loan debt repayment and professional training tracks targeted at medical professionals. 

Louisiana

  • Proposed Amendment 2: This measure would allow boards of the public higher education systems to determine tuition and fees without permission from the state legislature.

New Mexico 

  • Bond Question C: This concerns the 2016 Capital Projects General Obligation Bond Act, which would issue $142,356,000 to spend on higher education, special schools and tribal schools.

Oklahoma

  • State question 779: Also known as the One Percent Sales Tax, this would create a limited purpose fund for public education by increasing the state sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent. It's estimated that this tax would generate $615 million per year in revenue. Concerning higher education, 19.25 percent would go to the institutions under the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education; 3.25 percent would go to the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education; and 8 percent would go to the State Department of Education.

Oregon

  • Measure 95 would allow investments in equities by public universities, which is currently prohibited.

  • Measure 96 would dedicate 1.5 percent, or a predicted $9.3 million annually, of the state's lottery earnings to veteran support services -- part of that fund would support veterans' education.

  • Measure 99 would use state lottery money to create the "School Outdoor Education Fund." Much of the money will go to fifth and sixth grades, but some will go to Oregon State University "to administer and fund outdoor school programs statewide consistent with current law’s grant program criteria."

Rhode Island 

  • Question 4: This measure would issue $45.5 million in general obligation bonds for the University of Rhode Island. When broken down, $25.5 million would go to building renovations and $20 million would go to funding business collaborations between an innovation campus and the university. 

South Dakota

  • Amendment R: Currently, all postsecondary schools funded by the state are governed by the Board of Regents. Under this measure, postsecondary technical institutions would no longer be governed by the board, but would be governed in a manner to be determined by the Legislature. The institutions to be are affected Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute, Southeast Technical Institute, and Western Dakota Technical Institute.

Local Measures

When it comes to county races, bond measures dominate higher education. Here are a few of them. 

In California, voters in Butte County will decide whether to issue $190 million in bonds for facilities maintenance at Butte-Glenn Community College. In addition, voters in Butte and Yuba Counties will determine whether to issue $33,565,000 in bonds for facilities maintenance at Yuba Community College.

Voters in San Diego County will vote on Measure X, whether to issue $348 million in bonds for repairs to classrooms and facilities, constructing a Workforce Training Center, and providing educational support to veterans. They will also vote on Measure MM, regarding $455 million in bonds for upgrading facilities and providing joint training support to veterans at MiraCosta Community College. Finally, Measure Z would issue $400 million in bonds for upgrading community college campuses and providing job support for students and veterans.

San Francisco County voters will also vote on Proposition B, which would renew a parcel tax of $99 per year for 15 years; revenue would benefit City College of San Francisco.

In Maryland, Baltimore County residents will vote on an ordinance that would allow the county to borrow $15 million in community college projects, which would include construction and renovation of campus buildings.

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