CHICAGO -- Detroit Public Schools officials are hailing voters' overwhelming approval of a $1.5 billion bond issue, and say they will price the first series of the school bonds by February.
Tuesday's voting was also a boon for Republican gubernatorial candidates throughout the Midwest, many of whom were returned to office with the benefit of having more COP lawmakers in their state legislatures.
Detroit citizens voted 140,253 to 90,804 Tuesday to approve the mammoth bond issue for capital improvements to schools. The debt would be repaid with revenues raised over a 45-year period through a series of property tax increases.
Michigan Treasurer Doug Roberts has given preliminary approval to the Detroit school bond issue, but said approval for each of the 10 incremental bond series to be issued over the next 15 years would not be guaranteed if they rely too heavily on revenues from the state's school bond loan fund. The bonds would be qualified under the fund, giving them the state's ratings of A1 and AA.
"In the near term, I would not expect them to use the fund other than as a mechanism to get a better interest rate," Roberts said. "But my reading is they can't get to $1.5 billion with [13 mills -- the maximum tax levy allowed in the state]. At some point some treasurer will have to raise the issue because the approved levy won't pay the principal and the interest."
Ohio voters approved by a 2-to-1 margin a constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from levying taxes on soft drinks and from levying other future wholesale taxes on food items. The vote repeals a so-called pop tax of about one cent a can that the state has been collecting since 1993.
Paolo De Maria, Ohio's assistant director of budget and management, said the Jan. 1 elimination of the pop tax will cut $35.5 million from the $15.9 billion general fund budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The revenue loss for the entire year is estimated at $65 million, he said.
De Maria said that a projected $200 million fund balance at the end of fiscal 1995 should provide ample cushion to absorb the revenue loss for the remainder of the fiscal year. He added that the revenue loss will make budgeting for the next biennium tougher.
In South Dakota, voters agreed 53% to 47% to revive a video lottery recently ruled unconstitutional by the state high court. Since unplugging the lottery terminals in June, the state has lost $55 million of expected revenue and has had to make deep budget cuts to avoid a fiscal crisis.
South Dakota voters also turned down an initiative that would have capped local tax levies at 1% of the property assessed value.
In Iowa, Polk County voters dealt a resounding blow to riverboat gambling, deciding by a vote of 85,042 to 45,183 not to approve the floating casinos. The vote may help the straggling, bond-financed Prairie Meadows racetrack, which recently received voter approval for slot machines to help raise revenue for debt service payments.
Meanwhile, voters in the Midwest returned incumbent Republican governors to office and in some cases gave them the present of a Republican-controlled legislature.
Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois easily won reelection to a second term against Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch, the state's comptroller, with 64% of the vote. Edgar's party also gained control of the Illinois House by about 10 seats, giving the governor a Republican-controlled General Assembly.
John Engler won a second term as Michigan's governor, receiving 62% of the vote against Democratic opponent Howard Wolpe, a former congressman. Engler also got Republican control of the legislature.
Gov. George Voinovich of Ohio trounced state Sen. Robert Burch Jr. with 72% of the vote. Voinovich will begin his second term as governor with a Republican-contrelled legislature, after voters gave Republicans a 55-to-44 edge in the House. The state House had been dominated by Democrats since the 1970s.
Tommy Thompson won a third-term as governor of Wisconsin, defeating Democrat Chuck Chvala with 67% of the vote. Republicans also triumphed in the state Assembly, winning a 51-to-48 majority.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, defeated Democratic candidate Bonnie Campbell, while Gov. Arne Carlson, of Minnesota's Independent Republican Party, handily defeated Democratic challenger John Marty.
Former South Dakota Republican Gov. William Jankle returned to the governor's mansion with 55% of the vote to challenger Jim Beddow's 41%.
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Ben Nelson of Nebraska bucked the prevailing trend by trouncing his GOP challenger Gene Spence, who won only 26% of the vote to Nelson's 74%.
And in North Dakota, which held no statewide races this week, voters gave the Republican party control of the state House. That leaves both legislative chambers and the governor's office in GOP hands.