A majority of Virginians want transportation improvements but don’t like most of the proposals offered by legislators and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to pay for them, according to a recent statewide poll.
The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. survey said only 39 percent support higher taxes for transportation, and just 30 percent favor cutting state spending elsewhere and spending the savings on rail, roads and transit projects.
When it comes to recent proposals, a sizable 86 percent oppose increasing fees on car insurance premiums, while 90 percent favor tougher fines for bad drivers.
Lawmakers are considering returning to Richmond next month to deal with transportation — the issue at the heart of this year’s unprecedented budget impasse. J. Bradford Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon, said poll results suggest this isn’t the time for a special session.
“There just isn’t enough support to do something about transportation right now,” he said.
More than two-thirds of those responding to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. survey said they favor a special session of the General Assembly to deal with transportation problems.
Despite the public’s cool reception to Kaine’s support for tax increases, 55 percent of poll respondents said the governor is doing an excellent or good job. Only 8 percent said he was doing a poor job.
The Democratic governor and a bipartisan majority in the Republican-controlled Senate insist that significant new revenue is needed for a meaningful solution to the state’s transportation woes. GOP conservatives who control the House of Delegates oppose tax increases.
“It confirms what we’ve been saying: You shouldn’t raise taxes,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said of the poll. “You need a multifaceted approach.”
Senate Transportation Chairman Marty Williams, R-Newport News and sponsor of a comprehensive transportation bill pending in a House committee, said the poll “is going to reinforce the House position not to do anything.”
The poll involved 625 likely voters. Results could vary 4 percentage points in either direction.
Respondents were asked their views on various proposals advanced by Kaine and legislators. The results:
50 percent opposed tax increases for transportation; 39 percent favored higher taxes; 11 percent were undecided.
61 percent opposed raising the sales tax on cars from 3 percent to 5 percent; 32 percent supported increases; 7 percent were undecided.
86 percent opposed increasing fees on car insurance premiums; while 10 percent supported them; 4 percent were undecided.
60 percent rejected increasing vehicle registration fees; 34 percent favored them; 6 percent were undecided.
90 percent backed tougher fines for bad drivers; 7 percent were opposed and 3 percent were undecided.
59 percent opposed a tax on gasoline stored at fuel depots; 25 percent favored it; 16 percent were undecided.
53 percent rejected a plan to finance more road improvements with debt; 32 percent favored additional borrowing; 15 percent were undecided.
52 percent opposed cutting state spending in other areas by $500 million and shifting funds in the highway budget; 30 percent supported the House-backed concept; 18 percent were undecided.
49 percent backed tolls on some interstate highways; 46 percent were opposed; 5 percent were undecided.
50 percent endorsed authorizing localities to impose taxes for regional projects; 43 percent were opposed; 7 percent were undecided.
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