“In transportation, there is a long history of attracting support for new revenue by promising shiny new things and ribbon-cuttings,” Pollack said. “There probably was a bit of an emphasis on what [transportation officials] perceived would make people excited.”
Davey said he believes people are willing to pay more for better transportation opportunities — and according to research, he might be right.
A poll released March 14 by MassINC , a nonpartisan research group, estimated that just more than 60 percent of voters would be willing to pay $50 per year to fund long-term fixes for roads and public transportation, based on polls and focus groups over the past six months.
Of course, Davey’s campaign to sell the funding plan around the state has had its critics, perhaps none more biting than the Marblehead-based Citizens for Limited Taxation. A recent post on the organization’s website calls the efforts “a dog-and-pony show lining up interests who thrive off government spending.”
Barbara Anderson, the group’s executive director, said Patrick’s and Davey’s efforts to inspire enthusiasm in Massachusetts residents is part of a plan to raise expectations of how much taxes could rise, so a more modest increase would come as a relief.
“If they do something less than that, we’re all supposed to be incredibly grateful,” Anderson said.
Anderson argues the campaign has not convinced voters, and has instead targeted transportation advocacy groups who do not adequately represent the views of most Massachusetts residents.
“They go to every little group, and every little group is added to their long list of supporters who want a tax increase,” Anderson said, “even if some of these groups might be three AARP members in the far corner of the state.”
Promising large-scale products like South Coast Rail and trains from Boston to Springfield, she said, are gifts that may shore up support in communities outside of Boston, but will probably become mired in bureaucracy before they ever become a reality.
“You have a better chance of getting on a train to Hogwarts,” Anderson said, “than getting on a train to Fall River.”