With each passing day, the proposed transportation package from the House Democrats is looking more and more like the Roads & Transit measure that failed in 2007. Both may go down in history as unique proposals that united both pro-transit and pro-road forces in opposition. Anti-tax forces haven’t been giving the package any love either– Monday’s Elway Poll made it clear that the general public isn’t interested in paying higher gas tax and car-tab fees.
While any opposition to such a highway-centric package sounds good, it’s important to not take away too much from the poll. It’s a no-brainer that no one actually likes paying more taxes. But if you associate a benefit to the cost of tax increases, people tend to have a stronger willingness to yield. Of course, that depends on what those benefits actually are and how you frame the question.
Let’s take a look at the Elway’s poll question (.pdf). The wording leads by outlining the package’s potential benefits, and asks the respondent to prioritize accordingly:
The legislature is looking at some potential transportation improvements. Of course, transportation projects are expensive and take a long time to complete. So the question is where to spend taxpayer dollars. I am going to read a list of projects that could be included in this package. As you think about the state transportation system over the next 10 years, tell me whether you think each project should be a Top priority for state government, a High priority, Low or a Not a priority for state government:
- Expand major highways around the state to reduce commuter congestion and increase freight mobility
- Provide money to the state ferry system to upgrade and maintain the system and keep fares down
- Repair and maintenance of existing roads and bridges
- Provide money to local mass transit systems