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General government state and local ballot initiatives: Education

While media outlets nationwide concentrate heavily on how Tuesday’s election results will affect federal government spending, contracting and state and local funding, I would like to shine a light on a series of state and local ballot measures that will certainly fly under the radar in the wake of President Obama’s reelection, but may nevertheless have major impact on business, procurement and IT needs. Here’s a breakdown of several measures that are sure to affect the state and local education landscape, lottery and gaming operations, and procurement law:
-       In Chicago, voters have tentatively passed Ballot Measure E, which would provide $78 million for improvements to Chico Unified School District campuses. That is a hefty amount, and there is sure to be a fair amount put toward upgrading the district’s technology infrastructure.
-       Prop 204 would have approved a 1 cent per dollar sales tax hike. Approximately 80 percent of the revenue from the tax hike would have gone toward bolstering education funds; contractors within the state largely supported its passage. The measure failed by a 2-1 margin.

Coconino County, Arizona:
-       A measure to increase the operating budget for the Page Unified School District in Coconino County would have led to a $1.16 million increase in funding through 2017-18. The measure failed to pass.
Maricopa County, Arizona:
-       The West-MEC bond will lead to almost $75 million in bonds to pay for new campuses and vocational training centers for the Western Maricopa Education Center. The initiative will also result in new facilities in Buckeye and North Phoenix, and improvements to existing facilities in Glendale and Surprise. According to the Phoenix Arizona News, the measure was overwhelmingly approved.
-       The passing of Governor Brown’s proposition for a sales and income tax increase (Prop 30) was a major win for education. The measure is expected to raise $6-$9 billion in additional revenue for schools. Brown’s measure will raise taxes on high-income earners and be retroactive to all revenue earned since January 1, 2012. This measure will presumably stave off massive cuts to California’s education system that would have had devastating long-term effects on education procurement in the most populous state in the nation. 
-       Butte County’s Gridley Unified School District failed to pass a measure to borrow $11 million to “improve student access to computers and modern technology.” 
Many states and localities had ballot initiatives seeking to secure funding for education and schools through the issuance of bonds, tax increases or other forms of borrowing. In the vast majority of these cases, the intention was not to find new money, but rather find ways to continue status-quo funding or bolster large funding shortfalls. While this will not necessarily result in a wave of new spending on education or education IT, at the end of the day, the money will be used to preserve existing programs and contracts that would otherwise be canceled or discontinued without new sources of revenue. This represents more of a “staunch the bleeding” act for many governments, but if it means that existing contracts have enough funding to be re-bid moving forward, that will still result in a net gain for government contractors.

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