Washington isn’t a state with a reputation for achieving consensus, but if there’s one thing on which nearly all the political insiders agree, it’s that the $16.5 billion Sound Transit/RTID Roads & Transit package that’s headed to the ballot this coming November is as good as dead.
I’ve heard it from Democrats and Republicans, from liberals and conservatives, from package supporters and package opponents. I’ve heard it from politicians I trust, and from politicians I emphatically don’t trust. And everybody agrees that the package is just too big and too expensive for our skeptical electorate to approve at the polls.
But… um… I guess I should’ve asked some actual voters, because a new poll shows quite solid support for the package, both before and after respondents are informed of the details.
61% of respondents supported the package when presented on an “uninformed basis” with no persuasive messaging:
“A transportation package has been proposed that would increase the sales tax by 6/10 of 1%, and the car license tab by 8/10 of 1%. It would fund $16.5 Billion dollars in road, highway, and mass transit improvements in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties”.
When respondents were informed of the package’s costs, but not its elements, support dropped to 49%:
“This package will cost the typical household $150 in additional sales tax each year, plus $80 in license tab tax for every $10,000 of your car’s value.”
Not surprising. But then once voters are informed of the major components of the package, support rebounds to 63%, and remains at this level after positive (66%) and then negative (61%) messaging is presented. (FYI, the poll was conducted by Moore Information and EMC Research, April 1-4, and consisted of 800 registered voters with a 3.5 percent margin of error.)
The imminent, inevitable failure of the Roads & Transit package has become a rallying cry for supporters of creating a new regional transportation commission. “We’ve got to do something to restore the confidence of voters,” I’ve been told on more than one occasion. But if these poll numbers are even remotely accurate, it looks like a substantial majority of voters are confident enough in our current transportation planning to spend $16.5 billion expanding light rail and making other critical transportation improvements.
So much for the common wisdom.