Monday, February 4, 2013

RPS predictions?

I’m no Nate Silver—in fact, I’m probably closer to a Pauline Kael—but I thought I’d go out on a limb and make a prediction about tomorrow’s tomorrow’s RPS vote here, if only for entertainment’s sake. (For more information about the issue, see this post.) In other words, this is a completely frivolous post.

I don’t have much to go on, but I think most signs point to a “Yes” win. First, the pro-RPS side seems more organized and vocal. I haven’t kept a tally, but it’s been my impression that supporters’ letters to the editor have far outnumbered opponents’. The pro-RPS side also seems to be better funded—I’ve gotten at least one pro-RPS mailing, and this afternoon I even got a robo-call. (Is that a plus?) [Update: They’re even running radio ads!] Who knows, maybe that’s just because Vote Yes people are more profligate with their money; I’m glad a not a fundraiser for the Vote No side. In any event, the Vote Yes side has seemed more visible and active.

Second, for reasons I discussed here, I think the Iowa City area is likely to be predisposed toward arguments in favor of social spending.

Third, the last time an issue like this was on the ballot, it won by about a two-to-one margin—even a little higher if you just look at our school district, without the rest of the county that was also voting then.

Fourth, the RPS enables funding for infrastructure projects in all parts of town. People on both the east and west sides and in the North Corridor all have infrastructure hopes, all of which have a better chance of getting funded, and sooner, if the RPS passes.

Fifth, I think we’re unlikely to see much of a backlash against the district’s proposed diversity policy. Some areas may even be more likely to support the RPS because of the diversity policy. And the areas that seem most likely to oppose the diversity policy are also those who are most likely to want a new high school. There’s good reason to think that if the RPS fails, the school board will reallocate the money that’s been set aside for the new high school to other building needs. So many of the people who oppose the diversity policy have good reason to want the RPS to pass.

Sixth, turnout so far is low. The rate of early voting is a little more than half what it was the last time we voted on this kind of issue. I think a low turnout favors the more organized side, which appears to be the pro-RPS side.

The “No” votes will come from the more fiscally conservative voters who would rather have the tax relief, as well as from voters who are disgruntled enough with the district to cast a protest vote and those who simply want a clearer sense in advance of how the money is likely to be spent. I just don’t think there are enough of those voters to stop the measure from passing.

Fully prepared to eat crow, I predict the measure will pass with 70% of the vote. Feel free to chime in with your own prediction in the comments (or on Twitter).


Jason T. Lewis said...

Chris: I think your tea leaf reading is probably spot on, but I wanted to clarify one thing: The fiscal conservatives may well vote no, but there's no tax relief coming if the RPS doesn't pass. The tax is already baked into the state sales tax and has been for quite some time.

Chris said...

Jason -- I confess that I find this stuff impenetrable, but that's not my understanding. On the district's RPS FAQ (Item #12), it says that if the RPS is voted down, "the District will continue to receive the state sales tax but this revenue must be used to replace current levies the District authorized at that time" and that "all sales tax revenue would be used to offset these two levies."

So, though I understand that that sales tax money itself has already been collected, it sounds to me like it will be dedicated to relief from existing tax levies if the RPS is not approved (by 2017).

Jason T. Lewis said...

Yes, if a new RPS isn't passed by 2017, then the state prioritizes what the money is used for and that includes existing levies. The 1% tax will still be in effect, we just won't be able to use it to fix anything or build anything.

That said, the likelihood of not passing a new RPS before 2017 is, well, not likely.

Chris said...

I'm with you on that. It's not as if there will be tax relief tomorrow if "No" wins tonight.

I also agree that the thing is bound to pass eventually. All the more reason just to get it over with and not pay for more of these elections.

Some people seem determined to vote against it until the board settles on a long-range facilities plan, but pretty much admit that they'll vote for it eventually, regardless of what the plan ends up saying. To me, that just seems like throwing money away.

Jason T. Lewis said...

Yeah, it'd be hard to justify a "no" vote on the basis of fiscal responsibility when it will cost upwards of $20k to hold another vote. That's a lot of AC for sweaty kids in August.

Chris said...

Yes wins with 56%. I was close!