Voters in the Northeast approved $570.8 million of borrowing, including a $400 million open-space initiative in New Jersey, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg won a third term and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine lost to Republican candidate Chris Christie.
Garden State voters narrowly passed $400 million of bonding for land preservation and clean water initiatives, with unofficial results showing 813,536 in favor and 745,002 against. The unofficial numbers are from the state’s Division of Elections and county board of election results. The bond proceeds will help top up the Garden State Preservation Trust Fund, which ran out of funding on June 30.
In 2007, a referendum to issue $200 million for the trust passed with 105,937 more voters approving than opposed. Overall, 702,459 voters were in favor of the $200 million issue, while 596,522 were not.
New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. It also has high debt levels, with nearly 10% of the fiscal budget going to pay down principal and interests payments on its more than $32 billion of outstanding debt.
“I think this time it was closer than usual just because of the state of the economy and I think the public has a much better understanding of the level of debt that the state government has taken on, and that’s become a problem too,” said Gregg Edwards, president of the Center For Policy Research of New Jersey, a nonprofit think tank that espouses free markets. “But New Jerseyans tend to favor open-space propositions because it is a densely populated state and land is a premium, and they like to preserve open space when they can.”
Governor-elect Christie said during the campaign that he was against the $400 million bonding initiative and prefers pay-as-you-go funding for programs.
“I do think that his overall point of view is that we can’t incur any more debt just because the level is so high,” Edwards said.
In neighboring Pennsylvania, voters rejected a $47.9 million bond issue for Donegal School District and $31 million of borrowing for Monroe County to help finance college construction and equipment purchases.
There were no bond referendums in New York, but New York City voters narrowly reelected Bloomberg to an extraordinary third term.
With 10 days before election day, the city’s wealthiest individual had already spent $83.4 million of his own fortune compared the $6.6 million Comptroller William Thompson Jr. had spent using privately raised and public matching funds, according to campaign finance records.
Despite the vast spending gap, the mayor won with 50.6% of the vote, compared to the comptroller’s 46%. Bloomberg was able to run again after the City Council, at his behest, overturned term limits that had been twice approved by the voters.
City Council member John Liu easily clinched the comptroller’s office. His office works with the Office of Management and Budget on bond deals, oversees city pension funds, and has a seat on the New York City Industrial Development Agency.
Elsewhere in the Northeast, voters approved millions of dollars of bond deals in referendums.
Voters in Maine approved up to $71.3 million of general obligation bonds for transportation projects.
The language of the measure said that passage would make the state eligible for $148 million of federal and other matching funds.
Maine voters will be asked again in June and November 2010 to vote on an additional $78.7 million of bonds for various purposes.
In Hinesburg, Vt., voters approved $2.5 million of school district bonds for renovations to an elementary school.
Voters in North Kingstown, R.I., approved $10 million of bonds for sewer system construction.
In Connecticut, Cheshire voters approved seven bond issues for various infrastructure projects totalling $5.5 million, while Groton voters rejected a $10.7 million bond referendum to finance street rehabilitation.