Public infrastructure projects across New York, Alabama, Texas, and more could be seeing major changes after state voters approved climate change initiatives in the recent midterm elections.
The biggest victories are the passing of New York’s Prop 1, the Environmental Bond Act, and Alabama’s passage of Amendment 6. Similar proposals and amendments were passed in Oregon, Michigan, and Kansas, while California’s Prop 1 — a proposal to raise taxes on the wealthier bracket to support electric vehicle infrastructure — was voted down.
Alabama’s Amendment 6 is one initiative that could help provide more availability to needed capital for public infrastructure. Before the passing of this amendment, public taxes were tied to the bond market, and were thus held up before they could go back to public projects. Amendment 6 removes this roadblock and allows local governments to use public funds to finance various “pay-as-you-go” projects that would’ve been more complicated to finance.
In New York City, a similar initiative was voted by over 60% of New York voters for the Environmental Bond Act of 2022, which will finance public works to battle extreme weather and protect coastal areas.
Over $4.2 billion will be gathered to fund the initiative and hire contractors to work on these projects. The act will create over 100,000 jobs that will work to protect the state’s drinking water supply, work on manage flood risk, and conserve more of the state’s open spaces.
Michigan, Texas, and Kansas may soon join these states with similar initiatives though there are challenges ahead. Texas and Kansas’s state treasurers have vowed not to use state funds for climate initiatives, while local officials in Houston are working to include flood maps into future city planning efforts to fight climate change.
In Texas’ Harris County — frequently affected by storm flooding — Democrat Lina Hidalgo won a close race for County Judge against Republican Alexandra del Moral Mealer. Hildago has already made the incorporation of flood maps and climate measures in city planning and construction a large part of her previous term as county judge, signaling more possible progress to come.
These measures did not come without criticism. Some state treasurers claim that climate and social initiatives like these do not belong in the state’s investor room. There were critics of NY’s bond act who said that the bill will put the state into more debt. However, this has not stopped these initiatives from steadily moving forward.
All of these legislative proposals reflect an upward trend towards more action on climate change and building more infrastructure at the local level, but there’s still room for more in the future. In November’s midterm elections, over 132 initiatives across 37 states were on the ballot, but only 2% of these measures were focused on the issue of climate resilience.