Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island)
On Monday the Seattle Times noted the release of a recent poll by Stuart Elway showing less-than-stellar support for the tax hikes included in the $10 billion transportation package proposed by House Democrats.
Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island)
And by "less-than-stellar" I mean almost nonexistent.
Specifically, the Elway poll indicates that 72 percent of the 412 registered voters surveyed between Feb. 28 and March 2 oppose the 10-cent gas tax hike over five years, and 62 percent oppose the 0.7 percent car-tab tax. And while it's not shocking to hear voters don't support new taxes and tax hikes, the poll also indicated that 70 percent of respondents rated the state's transportation system as "satisfactory" or better.
Analyzing the findings the Elway poll noted, "building support for any transportation tax package will have to be preceded by rebuilding the idea that the transportation system needs help."
Despite the chilly results, that prospect - let's call it the prospect of voter epiphany and/or enlightenment - is what gives House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) hope.
"I did not think there were any surprises," Clibborn says via email of the Elway poll. "The general public does not spend the time thinking about transportation unless they are sitting in traffic or trying to catch a bus. We in the Legislature, on the other hand, spend a lot of time with business interests who see the increasing congestion as a barrier to the success of their business. Or talking to transit agencies who are cutting service all over the Puget Sound region."
While the Elway poll strongly suggests voters don't see the need for a $10 billion transportation package funded largely through new or increased taxes, Clibborn believes lawmakers can help voters see the light. How, you ask? By pointing out the specific aspects of the plan that will positively benefit their lives.
"I think there is much we can do to educate voters and we need to assure them that we are being efficient," says Clibborn. "If we added the particular projects and services that would help them in their lives I think there might be more support."
When it comes to these particular projects, Clibborn cites plans to connect State Route 167 and State Route 509 to Interstate 5, the widening of Interstate 405, critical work on US 395 in Spokane, reducing congestion at JBLM - not to mention ferry and transit funding - as items included in the transportation package that will have direct benefits to voters. Clibborn also notes that $800 million of the proposed transportation package is unallocated, meaning it could be of benefit to people throughout the state.
"When we look statewide many of these have constituencies. I am sure there will still be many who don't like the new taxes. I just think it will be more interesting if they know something will come to them," says Clibborn. "We also are doing a lot for maintaining what we have. This is very popular with voters."
She's right. Maintaining and repairing existing bridges and roadways was one of the few things - along with the hazardous substance tax - that people seemed to overwhelmingly support.
The rest of it? Like, you know, the taxes?
Not so much ...
So is the transportation package dead in the water?
"I don't know of any lack of enthusiasm from stakeholders at this time," Clibborn says when asked whether the sentiment captured in the Elway poll could dampen the push for a transportation package from lawmakers and interested parties like the the Washington Roundtable and Washington State Labor Council.
"The vote is in the Legislature," says Clibborn, "so it remains to be seen if the Legislators are moved by this poll."