Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Transfer Tax Defeat Revisited

Interesting item over at Public Policy Polling, delving a little more deeply into the across-the-board defeat of the "transfer tax" referenda in 16 N.C. counties in this past election.

We didn't have a dog in that particular fight, but we were otherwise dealing with the same sort of coalition of big money developers and real estate interests that spent hundreds of thousands of $$ to defeat the transfer tax referenda. Dean Debnam sums up the gloating about the results: "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."

Public Policy Polling undertook its own poll to understand better why the referenda went down so resoundingly. Bottomline: County commissioners in those 16 counties stuck the referendum on the ballot without bothering to explain it or (heaven forbid!) actually campaign effectively for its passage.

Number One: Those county commissions failed to explain adequately 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."

Not paying for growth is not an option. Duh.

PPP discovered in Wake County that polling respondents favored the transfer tax when they (1) understood that growth requires more essential infrastructure like water & sewer lines and more schools, (2) understood that the emotional campaign AGAINST the transfer tax was ginned up and paid for by developers and the real estate industry and (3) understood that property taxes will probably have to go up if a transfer tax isn't passed.

Frankly, those county commissions that decided to rush into a transfer tax referendum without thinking through how they were going to win the vote looked like a self-immolation cult piling up the brush for their own bone-fires. You'd think North Carolina elected officials in all those 16 counties would be savvier than that.

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