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Afternoon Jolt

Today's Loser: Transportation Funding. (Silver Lining Winner: King County).

At a first glance, and even a second or third glance, things don't look too promising for proponents of a major transporatation package this year, according to the latest Elway Poll. The state house Democrats rolled out a $10 billion transportation proposal two weeks ago that included gas taxes and local car tab fees to pay for transportation fixes. Polling it this week, Elway found lackluster support.

The discouraging numbers for proponents of the proposal? Hefty majorities opposed all the major taxing mechanisms: 61 percent were against tolls; 62 percent were against car tabs, and (whoa) 72 percent were against gas taxes. 

There also wasn't much urgency around transportation. Elway reports: "70 percent rated the state’s transportation system as 'satisfactory' or better, including 28 percent who rated it 'good' and 4 percent who said 'excellent.' Only 7 percent said 'poor.'"

But here's something Jolt also sees in the numbers: Urban values managed to make a good showing. Fifty-three percent of voters supported spending on "mass transit" (with a higher percentage, 18 percent, making it a "top priority," than any other item, such as "major highways", though support for highways in general was higher than mass transit, coming in at 61percent across the board.)

Additionally, another tax that got the cold shoulder was the proposed $25 bike fee, which 55 percent opposed.

The fact that two urban agenda items—mass transit and bikes—did well in a poll that otherwise adhered to the standard chilly line on urbanist policies, indicates that King County's more progressive values can be teased out if and when voters are asked to make real choices. The poll (and the plan), for example, still aren't fleshed out with details about what projects are in play.

Add some urban projects—including road projects the package doesn't currently contemplate funding, like completing 520 and the downtown Seattle tunnel (which, whatever you think of it, Seattle voters supported in 2011), plus bikes and transit—and pollsters may start seeing different answers. 

One noteworthy tax people did support? A tax on oil companies. By a margin of 61-35, voters supported the "hazardous substance" tax, the only tax they supported among all the options, which falls mostly on oil refineries. This indicates that there's growing consensus for taxing aspects of our transportation system that people see as having a negative impact. 

Perhaps a Polyannish Jolt today, but it was hard to miss some of these highlights in a poll that otherwise painted a daunting picture for this year's transportation package.

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