A number of state ballot initiatives to be decided by voters on Election Day could have a significant impact on the travel plaza industry.
Oregon Measure 97
One of the most closely watched ballot measures in the business community is Oregon's Measure 97. This initiative proposes an increase of the minimum corporate tax by establishing a 2.5 percent tax on corporate gross sales that exceed $25 million. The measure, which would only directly impact "C-corporations," is being followed by businesses throughout the country out of concern that if it passes in Oregon, other states could seek to replicate the measure.
Because the tax proposal is tied to gross (rather than net) receipts, it would result in double taxation on fuel sales. Nearly $1.00 of every gallon of motor fuel sold in Oregon is already subject to state and federal motor fuel excise taxes. Additionally, even pass-through entities that would not be subject to the tax increase directly would feel its impact because they buy products from C-corps, so they could be affected by higher prices that the C-corps would be absorbing.
Transportation Ballot Initiatives
Due in large part to disfunction in Washington, D.C., there is a significant increase in transportation ballot initiatives throughout the country this year as states and localities seek much-needed infrastructure revenue. Approximately $500 billion in transportation initiatives are on the ballot this year. This is part of a growing trend of states and municipalities taking appeals directly to voters, and gradually shifting away from reliance on the federal government.
Many of the initiatives involve transit. California voters, for example, will consider a half-cent sales tax increase that would go toward a mix of light rail, highway widening, rapid bus and rail service to the airport, and bike paths. Meanwhile, Seattle's Sound Transit is asking voters for $54 billion over 25 years through a combination of sales, motor vehicle and property tax increases.
Although these are some of the bigger ticket items, transportation ballot initiatives are on the ballot throughout the whole country, even places like the Midwest and South, where ballot initiatives are less common.
Some state measures replicate policy proposals that NATSO has advocated at the federal level. Illinois and New Jersey, for example are asking voters to put transportation-related revenues in a "lockbox," preventing them from being raided for other uses, while two Nevada counties have measures to index the gas tax to inflation.
Several ballot measures would increase taxes on tobacco products. California proposition 56 would increase the California cigarette tax rate by $2.00 per pack and increase the tax rate on other tobacco products proportionately in line with the higher cigarette tax. Colorado Amendment 72 would increase the Colorado cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack from the current $.84 per pack and raise the excise tax on other tobacco products by another 22 percent of the manufacturer's price. Finally, a North Dakota measure 4 would raise the North Dakota state cigarette tax by $1.76 per pack from the current $.44 per pack and raise the tax on other tobacco products from 28 percent to 56 percent of the wholesale price.
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