Washington Post headlines Thursday read “Poll Shows Support for Tax Increase” (front page) and “In N.Va., Open to More Taxes” (jump page). And on the website ”Poll Shows Support for Tax Increase.” Well … sort of.
It’s true that voters in Northern Virginia (the Washington suburbs), though not the rest of Virginia, want to spend more money on roads. And they support allowing voters to approve local tax increases for roads. But if you read down to the 19th paragraph, on the second jump page, you’ll find that they don’t actually like the idea of raising taxes. Even in Northern Virginia, only 21 percent of respondents said that raising taxes was a good way to pay for increased transportation spending. Twenty-nine percent preferred tolls, and 22 percent said other spending should be reduced. In the rest of Virginia, tolls were more popular and tax increases even less popular.
Sometimes it just seems that journalists like taxes. Which is their right as Americans. But they should be careful about how they present voters’ opinions. In this case, even though voters would like to spend more on transportation, they believe either that users should pay through tolls or that less-essential spending could be found somewhere in the state’s $37 billion annual budget. Seventeen percent statewide seems like fairly minimal “Support for Tax Increase.”