Voters will be faced with the third highest post-Word War II volume of general election bond issues on Nov. 3, with 394 issues totaling $11.67 billion, compared with 301 issues valued at $7.88 billion last year.
This year's Election Day total is surpassed only by 1988's record $15.09 billion and 1990's $12.33 billion. Voters approved the most bond issues, $13.95 billion, in 1988.
Education issues make up the largest chunk of this year's ballot bonds, with 154 issues totaling $4.5 billion, or 39% of the total.
Public facilities make up the second largest purpose, with 117 issues valued at $2.04 billion, or 17%, and utilities are third, with 48 proposals worth $1.84 billion, or 16%.
Last year, 70% of the bond volume on the ballot was approved by voters. However, that percentage was skewed by the approval for a handful of large issues that offset the rejection of dozens of smaller propositions.
In 1991, which was the largest off-year Election Day slate at $7.88 billion, seven large issues totaling $4.24 billion accounted for 77% of the $5.53 billion approved. The approvals were led by a $1.5 billion St. Louis airport proposal and a $1.1 billion Texas GO issue for prison expansion and mental health facilities.
Excluding those seven issues, only $1.29 billion of $3.64 billion was approved, or 35%. Last year also marked the first time that more bond issues were rejected than approved; 156 passed and 145 failed.
In 1990, only 41% of the $12.33 billion slate was approved.
Robert Chamberlin, senior vice president of municipal research and marketing at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., doesn't believe the 1992 slate will fare much better. "I'll be very surprised if the issues on the ballot do well," he said. "If you look across the country, where economic duress is the greatest, those are the states with some of the biggest issues: California, New York, New Jersey. You don't have a good atmosphere for voting more debt."
Those three states account for $5.75 billion, or 49% of the total on the ballots.
Heather Ruth, president of the Public Securities Association, said she doesn't have "a comprehensive feeling about how the issues will do ... it depends on which states and the project."
"In tough economic times it's hard to convince an electorate to pass more debt," she said. "But if you have really terrible roads and everyone knows that," then it becomes easier to get a proposal through. "A lot depends on public information. If there's a sense [among the voters] that the issue is for them and not just more debt," then there's a better chance of passage, she said.
"It's analogous with 1946," said Milton Wells, executive director for the National Association of State Treasurers. "The war is over and people want to build things for themselves, whether it's schools, roads, or prisons.
"People are recognizing the need to invest in the infrastructure" which, in turn, helps "create jobs," he said. "It's something [state] treasurers have been promoting."
The ballot includes 43 issues worth $1.74 billion for water and sewer facilities; 26 issues worth $614 million for parks, zoos, and beaches; 22 issues amounting to $255 million for libraries; 15 issues totaling $465 million for jails and prisons; and three issues totaling $1.02 billion for mass transportation.
"If the calendar does well," Chamberlin added, "it's because of the multiplicity of deals for $50 million or less. The real local needs are still there. It's a tough sell for the bigger deals."
Ohio has the highest number of issues voters will decide, with 52 issues totaling $483 million, many of them for school districts.
State Treasurer Mary Ellen Winthrow attributed the high number of issues by local school districts to "the governor's cuts to education," and although she wouldn't speculate on the chances of passage, Winthrow said she was "waiting anxiously" for the results.
A spokeswoman for the governor's office said that in the 1992 fiscal year, aid to local education actually increased by 7.5%.
California leads in dollar amount with $4.6 billion of bonding on the ballot, including the $1.9 billion Passenger Rail and Clean Air Bond Act proposal. The act would provide $1 billion for intercity and commuter rail programs. Another $900 million is for the School Facilities Bond Act for capital outlays to build or improve public schools.
There is also a $1.5 billion proposal for Los Angeles to finance the expansion of the city's sewer system.
Washington State is second in number of issues and total volume, with 45 issues worth $1.33 billion, much of which is a $695 million Seattle School District No. 1 referendum.
That proposal was narrowly defeated on a Sept. 15 primary ballot and was put back on the Nov. 3 ballot. In Washington, the same proposal can be placed on the ballot twice in one year, as long as it's put on at least 45 days before the election. The issues lost with 59.01% approval, with 60% needed to pass. The proposal would finance construction projects through 2000.
New York has one bond issue on the ballot this year, an $800 million jobs-creating act that is designed to provide state-sponsored financing for a series of infrastructure improvements. The projects are expected to create 100,000 jobs by 2000 and about $9 billion in economic activity. State Comptroller Edward V. Regan supports the bond act, but is also using it to drum up support from Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass a series of fiscal reforms affecting the state's debt practices.
In addition to the bond proposals, the ballots include several initiatives that could affect state financing. Among them:
* Colorado -- A constitutional amendment that would limit taxes and spending. Moody's Investor Service has warned that passage of the measure could prompt downgrades on local governments. Another ballot measure would authorize a 1% sales tax increase to help finance public schools.
* Illinois -- An advisory referendum asks voters to decide whether the state should mandate programs for local governments without providing funding.
* North Dakota -- Two measures would affect utility programs in the state. One proposal would impose an additional one-half percent sales tax on certain retail transactions that would be used to finance water projects. The other measure would impose a fee on waste generators to fund environmental protection and recycling projects.
* South Dakota -- A measure would establish an income tax, based on federal tax returns, on every resident or nonresident employee in the state. The net income of every corporation doing business in the state would also be taxed. Banks and mining and insurance corporations would be exempt.
Also on Election Day:
* Fourteen governorships, including American Samoa and Puerto Rico, will be contested, as well as 10 state treasurer posts. In 22 states, every seat in he legislature is up for grabs, with another 22 states electing half its senate and all of its house. Six states hold odd-year elections.
* Fourteen states have ballot items calling for term limitations for members of Congress and state officials.
* A record number of women, 2,375, are running for seats in state legislatures. That represents a 15% increase from 1990, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
Out-of-the-ordinary proposals and initiatives include a requirement that Hawaii state employees to take a loyalty oath and a measure in West Virginia that would give cash bonuses to veterans of Operation Desert Storm. That proposal would also grant smaller cash bonuses for veterans of the Grenada, Panama, and Lebanon military actions.
Amount Jurisdiction and Purpose
(*)$1,500.0 Los Angeles: wastewater improvements
1,000.0 California: rail transit projects
900.0 California: school construction and improvements
800.0 New York State: infrastructure projects
695.0 Seattle School District
613.0 Virginia: higher education, parks, mental health
548.8 San Francisco: earthquake safety, jails, fire safety
350.0 Oklahoma: state building improvements
345.0 New Jersey: Green Acres
250.0 Oregon: state park system
200.0 Metropolitan Service District, Ore.: park system
174.5 King County, Washington: jail and courthouse
170.0 San Diego: library construction and improvements
150.0 Highline School District No. 401, Washington
130.0 Fairfax County, Virginia: various projects
117.9 Baltimore County, Maryland: various projects
115.0 Jordon School District, Utah
106.6 Arlington County, Virginia: various projects
(*) Dollar amounts are in millions Source: The Bond Buyer