Local Politics

Wake approves tax hike for transit plan

Posted November 8

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— Wake County voters opted for a half-cent increase to the local sales tax rate Tuesday to help fund an expansion of public bus and train services.

The measure passed with a 53 percent favor, according to unofficial results.

The tax increase was needed to help fund the $2.3 billion plan laid out by Wake County commissioners in December. The board voted unanimously in June to put the tax increase on the ballot.

"This is truly an historic moment for our rapidly growing area," said GoTriangle Board Chairwoman Jennifer Robinson in a statement. "The support of Wake County’s voters will allow us to invest in a modern public transportation system that will give people an alternative to driving in congestion, help grow the economy and provide greater access for all residents to work, school and other important destinations."

According to the Wake County Transit website, the increased funds will contribute to multiple upgrades and initiatives to the public transportation system, including a 37-mile commuter rail line from Garner to Durham, with stops in Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and Research Triangle Park.

Voters in Orange and Durham counties approved similar sales tax increases in 2011 and 2012, respectively, for their own transit projects.

Shoppers in Wake County currently pay 6.75 cents per dollar in sales tax. The sales tax rate will now rise to 7.25 percent, so the tax on a $100 shopping trip would move from $6.75 to $7.25.

Proponents of the plan pointed to the Triangle's population growth in recent years, citing statistics that show Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding area are growing by 63 people a day, which is adding to traffic congestion.

Yet, organizations such as the conservative John Locke Foundation, Civitas Institute and the Wake County Taxpayers' Association opposed the tax increase and the transit plan, saying it could be underused, overpriced and outdated by the time it is completed.

Durham, Orange bonds expected to pass

A number of bond issues in Orange and Durham counties also passed, based on unofficial results.

Durham County voters favored borrowing $90.9 million for school construction, $44.7 million for library construction, $20.2 million for Durham Technical Community College facilities and $14.2 million for the North Carolina Museum of Life & Science. All four measures garnered at least 78 percent backing.

In Orange County, voters backed $120 million in bonds for school construction with a 75 percent favor and another $5 million for affordable housing with a 66-34 percent margin.

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