10/15/2007Virginia: Poll Shows Abuser Fees on Mind of Voters
A Washington Post poll shows a majority likely to vote in November against Virginia legislators who support the speeding ticket tax.
A Washington Post poll released Friday shows that Virginia state legislators who voted to impose a new tax on major and minor traffic infractions will face voters' wrath in November. In a telephone survey of 1,144 residents, transportation ranked as the most important issue, outpacing other items such as the economy, education and immigration by a wide margin. The so-called civil remedial fees were designed to raise revenue for transportation by adding a $1050 tax on top of an already sizable $2500 maximum fine for offenses that include driving 15 MPH over the limit in a 65 zone or wantonly disregarding the safety of others by failing to use a turn signal (fee details). Fifty-six percent of likely voters said they were less likely to vote for anyone supporting these fees.
This spells trouble for Speaker of the House of Delegates William J. Howell (R) who has embraced the fees on the behalf of his traditionally anti-tax party and blocked efforts of fellow Republicans such as state Representative Jeff Frederick (R-Woodbridge) to call a special session for their repeal. Howell's plan has been to delay action until after the elections, hoping the furor that ignited in July would die down and the issue become forgotten. Since the fees became publicly known, nearly 177,000 voters have pledged to vote against fee supporters (view petition). The Post poll suggests these voters have a long memory with a majority now expressing disapproval for the way the legislature is doing its job. This reflects a ten-point increase in discontent over a poll taken in 2006 before the abuser fee issue hit.
Only nineteen percent expressed support for abuser fees while three percent had no opinion on the issue. The poll did not ask respondents whether the fees themselves were a good idea, but it did ask whether voters thought the fees were "too high." Half responded in the affirmative, suggesting the plan of Speaker Howell and Governor Tim Kaine (D) to expand the fees to cover out-of-state drivers in January will do little to appease public anger.
A majority of legislators, including fee architect Dave Albo (R-Springfield), face no opponent in the upcoming election as the filing deadline for candidates elapsed before the fees were publicized. The poll claims a margin of error of 3 percent.