Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What the Transfer Tax poll results mean

Post by Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling:

Earlier this month transfer tax referendums were defeated in 16 counties across North Carolina. Some on the right and in the development community have declared that result to be the death of the concept of having those responsible for the rapid growth in many counties across the state pay for their fair share of it. I thought the failure of the referendums was more the result of mismanaged campaigns and a lack of a coherent and compelling message. A recent poll my firm Public Policy Polling conducted of likely Wake County voters shows that the transfer tax is a popular concept, if people have a proper understanding of the alternatives.

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 ‘Wake County is growing rapidly and must increase its revenue to pay for new schools, parks, roads, water and sewer.’ Given that background and before being asked about alternative ways of paying for growth, poll respondents supported a transfer tax by a margin of 49-40%.

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 Wake County. Only 34% of those polled supported a quarter percent increase in the sales tax to pay for growth, and when the options of a sales tax increase or a transfer tax were pitted against each other, the transfer tax was preferred by a margin of 54-31%.

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.


Anonymous said...

Dean, your post is as deeply flawed as your poll, but then again, that is no big surprise given your track record.

Once again, you insult the intelligence of voters in 16 counties across the state. I can't blame you for not wanting to accept the real poll results that were released on Nov. 6th...but I do blame you for being so naive as to think that the voters just don't understand the issue.

Perhaps you, Stan Norwalk, Chris Fitzsimon and others should get together and form your own referendum committees to promote the virtues of the transfer tax. At least that way when they go down in flames 70%-30%, you won't be able to claim voter ignorance.

Your elitism is disgraceful, but again, it isn't much of a surprise...

Anonymous said...

This is one of the worst push polls I have ever seen.

Obviously calling this a “poll” is, to be charitable, embellishing. It presupposes that growth doesn’t pay for itself and that there is no option of cutting spending. Not to mention that it is all automated with no verification of who is on the other line.

Question one:

Unlike this question most homes in Wake County are sold to people who are already here. The transfer tax would be paid on all homes, not just new ones.

Question 3. Nobody has ever said or would raise property taxes every year.

Question 6. Many taxpayer qroups like Americans for Prosperity also fundedc efforts to defeat these taxes.

Dallas Woodhouse
State Director
Americans for Prosperity

Chris said...

"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."

Wow. I hope you really don't believe that.

So all those new homes and businesses that occupy previously undeveloped land doesn't bring in new taxes, we then must need additional taxes to pay for growth?

Growth pays for itself, it's when counties misuse funds for things like "economic development" or building sports arenas or convention centers that there isn't enough money to pay for the basics like schools and sewer lines.

This isn't about NEEDING more money to spend, it's WANTING more money to spend.

Tom Jensen said...


If you are so sure of yourself then surely you won't mind counties in the Triangle giving their voters the opportunity to decide this issue for themselves next year. If they get their acts together, run serious campaigns, and get their message out our poll shows you might not have so much to gloat about next year.


I think you know full well that no amount of reasonable spending cuts is going to pay for all the new infrastructure that needs to be put in place because of the rapid growth in Wake County.

As for your quibbles with our wording, you're misreading question #1. If you live in Wake County and move to another existing home in Wake County you are buying a new home. On #3, if things keep going as they are the property tax rate is going to be increased every year regardless of whether there is a revaluation. And on #6 Americans for Prosperity is firmly part of the realtor and developer lobby.

gregflynn said...

I am not crazy about incentive packages but even realtors' market reports say that job growth drives the housing market and prices.

Newsflash: growth does not pay for itself in the short term, especially the capital expenses associated with rapid growth which require up front payments. There is not enough Wake County revenue to support the bonds needed for infrastructure to support the growth that developers want to see. Revenue streams are fundamental for bond rating agencies.

The self-delusional reports that purport to support the theory that growth pays for itself are deeply flawed. Even after rigging all the multipliers and claiming indirect benefits as direct benefits the Triangle study could only show a slight benefit by claiming that construction workers would be drawing unemployment insurance without new housing construction, a highly spurious assumption.

Taking pots shots at local governments is self defeating for realtors and developers who claim to support sales tax increases in lieu of transfer tax. By working up the anti-tax, anti-government crowd to a frenzy, sales tax increases and bonds will also be defeated, leaving expensive COPs, property tax increases, APFOs or housing moratoriums.

Barry said...

This is one of the worst push polls I have ever seen.

I do not think the word "push poll" means what you think it does.

Web Statistics