Voters in the Northeast approved almost every bond referendum on their ballots on Tuesday, according to data from Ipreo LLC and The Bond Buyer.
In Massachusetts, which had no bond referendums, voters kept their sales tax at its current rate, rather than cut it.
Elsewhere, bond measures totaling $1 billion met with success. Voters approved 50 out of 54 referendums, rejecting just $12.7 million, according to Ipreo and news outlets. The only measures in the region that failed were in Connecticut, which had 19 bond issues for various capital projects in towns and cities. The state’s voters nonetheless did approve $65 million out of referendums totaling $72.2 million
In Baltimore County, voters approved all eight bond referendums totaling $284.9 million, the county’s largest on record. The county votes on public improvement bonds every two years and has not rejected a debt provision since 1990, said Robert Burros, the county’s debt administrator.
In the city of Baltimore, voters approved all seven ballot referendums for bonds totaling $100 million. Bonds will be issued for schools, community development, the city’s aquarium, and museums.
Massachusetts voters opted to continue the state’s 6.25% sales tax and not decrease it to 3%. The initiative won with 57% of the vote, with more than 304,000 voters wanting to maintain the tax, according to unofficial results. If the ballot measure had passed, the state would have collected $1 billion less in sales tax revenue in the current fiscal year and $2.5 billion less in fiscal 2012, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, an independent fiscal think tank.
That revenue loss would have prompted spending cuts, including layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and state employees. Michael Widmer, president of MassTaxpayers, said that while there is an anti-tax sentiment among voters, people realized the economic impact.
“The sales tax was increased from 5% to 6.25% last year, and I think if the proposal had been to reverse that and bring it back to 5% ... the likelihood is it would have passed,” Widmer said. “I think by going to 3%, it overreached.”
A portion of the sales tax — 20% of the 5% levy — is pledged to nearly $4 billion of Massachusetts School Building Authority debt and $3.4 billion of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bonds. Last year’s increase to 6.25% from 5% helped pay down bonds used to finance the Central Artery project, known as the Big Dig, and helped the MBTA balance its operating budget.
Voters did approve a ballot measure to eliminate the sales tax on alcoholic beverages, beginning Jan. 1. That will cost the state about $40 million this year and more than $100 million annually in future years, Widmer said. That initiative passed by 52%.
All eight of Rhode Island’s local and state bond initiatives passed. The largest were statewide issues that authorize $80 million of bonds for highway, road, and bridge work to match federal funds, $4.7 million to purchase or fix public transit buses, $78 million for higher education facilities, and $14.7 million to preserve open space and renovate parkland.
Two bond referendums in Maine appeared to have passed, though official results weren’t available Wednesday. The Bangor Daily News reported that a referendum passed to competitively sell $5 million of bonds to upgrade and create dental care facilities. Also reportedly passed was $9.8 million of bonds for land conservation. In South Portland, voters approved a $41.5 million bond issue to finance renovations and additions to a high school.
A $350,000 issue in Rutland, Vt., for road construction also passed.