Southwest Voters Approve Large Bond Issues
DALLAS – Voters across the Southwest agreed to issue bonds for public projects ranging from a Major League Baseball stadium to traditional schools and roads.
In Colorado, voters approved some of the largest issues to appear on ballots that reached a record 60 proposals worth $4.2 billion.
Statewide, voters approved a constitutional amendment making it harder to get voter initiatives on the ballot and defeated a proposal to create the nation's first universal health care system.
Amendment 71, passed with 57% approval, will require any proposed amendment to the state constitution be signed off on by voters in each of the state's 35 Senate districts.
Currently, any constitutional amendment approved by 50%, plus one vote, of voters in an election becomes law. Under amendment 71, the threshold for approval is 55%. The amendment limits the power of the state's population centers on the Front Range to enact laws such as marijuana legalization that was approved by voters in 2012.
Amendment 69 to create a universal health care system in Colorado was easily defeated. It would have imposed a tax increase to raise $25 billion for the system.
Voters approved Amendment 70, raising the state's minimum wage to $9.30 per hour beginning in January, but rejected Amendment 72, which would have raised taxes on cigarettes by $1.75 per pack. The minimum wage will increase 90 cents per hour each Jan. 1 until it reaches $12 per hour.
On local bond ballots, voters approved $628 million of bonds for Denver Public Schools but rejected $535 million for neighboring Jefferson County Schools, the largest district in the state.
In the Fort Collins area north of Denver, voters appeared to narrowly approve $375 million of bonds for the Poudre School District.
In the Oklahoma City School District, voters approved $180 million of bonds, but statewide, voters rejected a proposed 1-cent increase in the sales tax to provide raises for public school teachers. Nearly 60% of Oklahoma voters voted no on State Question 779, which would have given each teacher in the state a $5,000 raise.
With about $5 billion on local ballots Tuesday, voters in Texas approved of the largest bond proposals.
In suburban Arlington, Texas, voters approved $500 million of tax-supported bonds to build an air conditioned stadium for Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers.
Voters in Austin approved $720 million of bonds for street improvements designed to reduce congestion.
In the Panhandle city of Amarillo, voters rejected $214 million of the $340 million of bond propositions that would have raised city taxes 57%.
In South Texas, voters approved $450 million of bonds for the San Antonio Independent School District, while in far West Texas, voters in the El Paso ISD approved a record $668.7 million of school bonds.
In Corpus Christi, voters approved $194 million of bonds for the school district, $18.35 million of bonds for city streets, and $139 million for the Del Mar Community College District.
In Dallas, voters approved cuts to the city's civilian employee pension fund designed to eliminate about $2.15 billion in pension fund liabilities over the next 30 years. and help the city fully pay out the benefits that were promised to civilian workers. The city's Employee Retirement Fund, or ERF, is separate from the troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund, which faces insolvency within 15 years unless major changes are enacted.
In the Houston area, voters in the Spring Independent School District approved $330 million of bonds with more than 72% in favor.
In the Houston ISD, 62% of voters rejected sending $165 million in tax revenue to the state under Texas' controversial "Robin Hood" tax equalization law. Under state law, property wealthy school districts must share revenue with property poor districts through the state. As a property wealthy district, Houston ISD was required to send some of its tax revenue to the state for redistribution. School board members decided they could not make that move without voter approval. Absent voter approval, the state can now "detach" taxable property from the Houston ISD tax rolls and assign that property to another district.
New Mexico voters returned Democrats to control of the state House of Representatives, which had been held by the GOP for two years. That puts Democrats in control of both houses, changing the relationship between state lawmakers and the Republican governor, Susana Martinez.