County-wide transfer tax referenda went down in flames all over the state yesterday. See some of the reaction here and here. To start, I agree with synopsis posts by Gary Pearce and Bob Geary.
Bob points out that people don't like to vote for taxes, especially if its unclear what the taxes are used for. I wholeheartedly agree. If a vote for the transfer tax were directly related to more money for schools then they would have been more successful.
Gary points out that better campaigns win. I agree with this as well. The county commissioners in each of the 16 counties that held transfer tax referenda did a terrible job selling it. I didn't see any evidence of organized pro-transfer tax campaigns anywhere. The anti-transfer tax people were definitely organized.
So is the transfer tax option doomed to fail everywhere else? Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley said in the N&O this morning that he is wary of putting it up for a vote next year. I don't think the transfer tax is doomed to fail. It just needs to be repackaged and sold better.
PPP has done a lot of polling on this issue and here is what we have learned:
First, the transfer tax is more popular if it is explicit that the money goes exclusive to education.
Second, and most importantly, the transfer tax is more popular if voters understand that it is an alternative to property tax increases. County commissioners need to explain to the voters that if they don't raise the transfer tax , then property taxes will have to be raised. Someone has to pay for growth and the increasing costs of infrastructure. The transfer tax will be more successful if it is sold as a fairer way to pay for growth.