Earlier this month transfer tax referendums were defeated in 16 counties across
The most important message to convey to the voters is that there are costs associated with growth and that they will have to be paid through some form of taxation. Foes of transfer tax measures this fall created the impression that not paying was an option. It isn’t, and the counties with referendums this fall failed to get that message across to their citizens.
In order to leap that hurdle we prefaced our poll with the statement that ‘
Support for the transfer tax increased when folks were given the choice of a transfer tax or another form of taxation. For instance when pitted against the specter of property tax increases, a transfer tax was preferred by a spread of 59-20% among survey respondents. If counties effectively communicate that a transfer tax will help relieve the burden of property tax increases, their voters are much more likely to support a referendum.
Counties have also been given the option of increasing the sales tax to generate new revenue. That is not a popular concept in
Recently several Council members in Raleigh and Cary were defeated by responsible growth opponents after their ties to the realtor and developer community were made widely known to the public. The pro-growth lobby is not politically popular and our poll shows that if voters are aware that they are the ones largely funding the opposition to the transfer tax it becomes a more popular issue.
45% of respondents said knowing that the anti-transfer tax campaigns are largely funded by the realtor and developer lobby made them more likely to support the transfer tax, while 29% said they didn’t know if it would impact their vote. Only 25% said that knowledge would make them less inclined to support it. Just as getting the word out about who was behind the campaigns of Jessie Taliaferro, Tommy Craven, and Ernie McAllister helped the campaigns of Rodger Koopman, Nancy McFarlane, and Harold Weinbrecht, making sure voters are informed that it is growth interests fueling the opposition to the transfer tax will earn it greater popularity.
What’s the bottom line? The transfer tax was doomed only by ineffective campaigning and message delivery. Since public money rightfully can’t be spent by counties to support their transfer tax campaigns, committees of prominent community leaders and citizens need to be formed to raise money and build support for the referendums.
Most importantly, they need to thoroughly educate voters on what the options are to pay for the costs of growth while making it crystal clear that not paying is not an option. Only if voters thoroughly understand that the failure to pass a transfer tax will mean higher property tax increases for years to come, will it succeed.
The 16 defeats represent a failure in leadership by our elected officials and the progressive community. Let’s hope we learn from it.