* The latest released results from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll. Pay attention to those income tax results…
The introduction to the various options for pension reform was read to each respondent: “As you may have heard, the state of Illinois has an unfunded pension liability of about 96 billion dollars. Some say this liability will grow rapidly as more people reach retirement age, and will hurt the state’s ability to fund other services, such as education, public safety, and roads. Others say that pensions are a binding contract between the state and its employees, and can’t be altered or reduced. I’m going to read some proposals that state officials have made to fix the pension liability. For each, please tell me whether you favor or oppose that proposal.”
1. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to suspend retirees’ annual cost of living increase for six years?
Strongly favor 21.8%
Strongly oppose 36.3%
Other/Don’t know 6.5%
2. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to apply cost-of-living increases only to the first $25,000 of retirees’ pensions?
Strongly favor 21.5%
Strongly oppose 28.0%
Other/Don’t know 10.5%
3. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to defer retirees’ cost-of-living increases until they reach age 67?
Strongly favor 30.7%
Strongly oppose 24.7%
Other/Don’t know 4.2%
4. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to increase the age at which retirees can receive full pension benefits from 65 to 67 years of age?
Strongly favor 35.7%
Strongly oppose 29.7%
Other/Don’t know 1.8%
5. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to increase the age at which retirees receive state-paid health care benefits from 65 to 67 years of age?
Strongly favor 29.7%
Strongly oppose 33.8%
Other/Don’t know 2.3%
6. Would you favor or oppose a proposal to increase the share that Illinois school districts pay for their employees and to reduce the amount that the state pays?
Strongly favor 21.7%
Strongly oppose 23.3%
Other/Don’t know 12.2%
7. The state of Illinois has a budget deficit of about 4 billion dollars. I’m going to read three statements that people have made about how to fix the deficit, and ask you which one comes closest to your views? If you haven’t thought much about the issue, just tell me that.
First is . . .
Illinois’ public programs and services have already been reduced significantly. We can only fix the problem by taking in more revenue, such as a tax increase.
Next is . . .
The state takes in plenty of money to pay for public services but wastes it on unnecessary programs. We can fix the problem by cutting waste and inefficiency in government.
Third is . . .
Illinois’ budget problem is so large it can only be solved by a combination of budget cuts and revenue increases.
More Revenue 7.5%
Cutting Waste and Inefficiency 54.7%
Combination of Budget Cuts and Revenue Increases 28.8%
Haven’t thought much about it 4.5%
Other/Don’t know 4.5%
8. Do you favor or oppose a proposal to make permanent the recently passed temporary state income tax increase?
Strongly favor 11.8%
Strongly oppose 44.3%
Other/Don’t know 8.0%
9. Do you favor or oppose expanding the sales tax to cover services like dry cleaning or haircuts, which are not currently taxed?
Strongly favor 16.3%
Strongly oppose 43.5%
Other/Don’t know 3.2%
* From the Institute…
“The results show the people of Illinois are aware of the problems in their state funded pension systems and of some actions which could be taken by state government,” said John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the Institute.
“There’s a general feeling that state employees are going to have to take some losses in their pension plans, but a majority of people in Illinois is not supportive of draconian measures. There is majority support only for incremental changes to the pension system,” Jackson said.
The poll also shows strong opposition to raising taxes, making the 5 percent income tax permanent or expanding the list of items subject to the state sales tax. Instead, voters support cuts to state spending to balance the budget.
There were 45.1 percent favoring [the cost-shift] proposal and 42.6 percent opposed. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most support for this proposal was in Chicago where almost half of the respondents (49.1 percent) supported it with the next highest in the suburbs, where 48.6 percent supported. Downstate areas outside the city and suburbs were the regions with the most opposition. Only 36.6 percent favored it while 48.8 percent opposed or strongly opposed.