Promises and Projects: Examining the Accountability and Flexibility of LOST Expenditure Plans

Research Team: Martin Wachs (lead) and Jaimee Lederman

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: Local Option Sales Taxes (LOSTs) are a popular form of local transportation finance in California. Researchers partially attribute the success of LOSTs to the inclusion of expenditure plans that outline specific projects and services to be delivered using measure revenue over the 20 or more years the measure will be in place. Expenditure plans are commitments on the part of sponsoring transportation agencies, but issues of accountability might compromise these commitments and we are not aware of any prior research into the tension between commitments to projects and commitments to accountability that are both included in LOSTs.

Project Description: This research will examine how well expenditure plans presented in measures reflect actual project delivery over the life of the sales tax. This project builds on previous research done at UCLA on LOSTs in California. The research team will first review all California LOST ballot measures for which expenditure plans are available to identify language and features that indicate flexibility in project and services delivery. The team will then conduct in-depth case studies to examine five to ten measures enacted over ten years ago using publicly available documents and interviews with transportation agency staff to examine how often amendments or other readjustment processes were used and what was changed. The research team will then compare capital projects delivered since enactment of the measure with promises made in the expenditure plan — including location, features, and timing — using GIS for visualization.

Status: Completed

Budget: $88,865

Policy Brief(s):