Nearly two-thirds of Seattle voters would vote this November to raise $2.1 billion from property taxes to fund another light-rail line, along with bicycle and pedestrian improvements, according to a poll Mayor Mike McGinn released today. The three-question survey, taken last Thursday through Sunday, also found overwhelming support for replacing the downtown seawall and funding education services with a $241 million levy and $300 million levy, respectively. Pollster ConstituentDynamics asked 1,001 likely voters the following question:
This November, voters will decide a tax measure to fund light rail, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure. The measure authorizes up to two point one billion dollars in taxes over thirty-five years. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this tax measure?
The poll, paid out of McGinn's own pocket, suggests he may try to put light rail on the ballot this year. McGinn commissioned the survey, which includes two other questions, to show the city council this morning that voters support replacing the seawall with a property tax levy. While including the two non-seawall questions in the poll serves to assuage fears of voter fatigue with recurring requests for higher taxes, the question about light rail is particularly pressing. During his campaign, McGinn pledged to put light rail on the ballot within two years. And last month, he said he may try to push the vote this fall. This poll suggests he could pass both the seawall and light-rail measures despite rising (but largely unfounded) skepticism that voters are fed up with levies.
But the poll, conducted in part by McGinn's campaign consultant Bill Broadhead, may include a couple result-skewing feature. For instance, the light-rail question in the poll doesn't make it clear that Seattle property owners are picking up the tab. In past light rail-measures—such as the one voters passed in 2008—the poential rail line extended into several suburbs, which help pay for the line with a regional sales tax. McGinn's light-rail proposal, as he put forth on the campaign trail, would require Seattle voters to go at it alone. Moreover, the poll doesn't say how much the average property could pay per year.
And $2.1 billion would be a steep tab for Seattle voters. When McGinn proposed a light-rail extension during his campaign, he said costs could be minimized by using existing public rights of way, noting that Portland opened its fifth light-rail line, requiring only three years of construction and $575 million, which is roughly one-quarter the proposal that McGinn polled. McGinn's proposed line from West Seattle to Ballard is the same line, roughly, as the ill-fated monorail, which got mired down in complicated financing before losing voter support. So any light-rail measure would have to woo voters with sound financing in addition to a manageable price tag.
Results of the poll's other questions appear after the jump.
This May, voters will decide a property tax measure to fund replacement and seismic improvements to the downtown seawall, built by city engineers in 1934. The measure authorizes property taxes of up to two hundred forty one million over thirty years, at approximately twelve cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this excess levy?
Next year, voters will decide a property tax measure to fund educational services, including preschool, early childhood education, and family support and involvement. The measure authorizes property taxes of up to three hundred million over seven years, at approximately thirty-two cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation. If the election were today, would you vote yes to approve, or no to reject this levy lid lift?