Poll shows car tab-fueled buyers’ remorse by Sound Transit 3 voters


June 08, 2017

By Joel Connelly, SeattlePI     Updated 7:24 am, Thursday, June 8, 2017

A new poll shows ST3 would get only 37 percent support if voters were given a do-over
Soaring car tab fees have spawned buyers’ remorse and a sharp drop in public support for the massive, $54 billion Sound Transit 3 light rail package approved last November by voters in three central Puget Sound counties.

 

A survey by Moore Information, the venerable Portland-based polling firm with Republican and business clients, shows that ST3 would get only 37 percent support were voters given a do-over.

 

The finding is certain to fuel car tabs as an issue in a hotly contested special 45th District (Redmond-Kirkland) state Senate race this fall.  The election’s outcome will decide which party controls the Legislature’s upper chamber — and the Legislature.

 

“Republicans want something to rail against this year, and Donald Trump is a pretty strong motivator for the Democrats,” said Andrew Villeneuve, a Democratic activist who heads the Northwest Progressive Institute.

 

Indeed, car tabs were much talked about at last weekend’s Mainstream Republicans of Washington conference, which sought to boost Republican candidate Jinyoung Englund in the 45th.

 

Moore Information asked the following question:

“As you may know, Puget Sound-area voters passed Sound Transit Three, or ST3 last November, which increased car tabs, sales tax and property taxes for transit and light rail.  Based on what you know today, if you had a chance to vote on this measure again, would you vote ‘yes’ to approve or ‘no’ to oppose the ST3 funding measure?”

 

Just 37 percent said they would give thumbs-up to ST3, while 51 percent said no. The remaining people among 500 surveyed answered to “Don’t know.”

 

Seattle voters continued to support ST3 by a 51-38 percent margin, but other areas in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties have turned against the taxing decision they made in November.  Older voters were a major source of opposition.

 

Car tab relief has been a major source of debate in the Legislature this year, with Republican Sens. Dino Rossi and Steve O’Ban offering a relief measure that would take a bite out of Sound Transit’s funding.

 

Sound Transit has defended itself with the ferocity of a wolverine.

 

ST3 is designed, over the next quarter-century, to extend light rail service north to Everett and south to Tacoma. Light rail would reach “out east” as far as Issaquah, and link both Ballard and West Seattle-Burien into the system.

 

It was boosted in a $3 million-plus campaign last fall by the so-called “transportation-industrial complex.” Financial backers of the massive proposal included  big corporations, construction and engineering firms, big law firms, construction unions and political consultants.

 

A major talking point for raising taxes was that light rail will benefit low-income residents and spare costs associated with owning a car.

 

In the Moore poll, however, 57 percent of those making under $50,000 a year said they would vote “No” today.

 

Villeneuve discounted the notion of a political do-over, noting last fall’s “robust” debate.  “I would like to see a re-vote in the 2016 race for president, given what I now know about Russian intervention in the election,” he said.

 

And the Northwest Progressive Institute leader, a long-time critic of Tim Eyman, cited familiar words from the initiative promoter: “As Tim Eyman said, the voters are smart. They are capable of sorting out the issues and deciding by themselves.”

 

He’s right, but ST3 and its taxes — especially car tabs — will be back on the table when Eastside voters decide control of the Legislature this fall.

 

The Republicans may find their motivation. “Further, the opposition is intense with fully 44 percent of voters strongly opposing ST3 today,” Moore found.

 

Moore Information polled 500 voters statewide between May 23 and 25, with 257 residing in the Sound Transit service (and taxing) area. The sampling error for Sound Transit voters was plus/minus 7 percent.

 


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