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Poll: Voters want cuts to waste, not programs; prefer tax hikes on millionaires, not themselves

Friday, Mar 17, 2017

* From the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute…

Illinois voters are deeply divided over how to handle the state’s budget impasse. Given three options for addressing the deficit, 45 percent favor cutting waste and inefficiency as the only way to handle the problem, while 11 percent favor a tax increase. However, 35 percent agreed with the statement that the state budget crisis will require both budget cuts and an increase in revenue. When the 35 percent who chose this option are added to the 11 percent who say they favor a tax increase, the result is 46 percent total who favor both raising taxes and cutting spending while 45 percent believe that cutting waste and inefficiency is sufficient.

This is one of the major findings of a recent statewide poll of registered voters taken March 4th-11th sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sixty percent of the interviews were via cell phones.

The increasing revenue option was favored by 13 percent in both Chicago and suburban Cook and the five Collar Counties while only 7 percent of downstate voters favored it. Forty three percent of Chicago voters thought a combination of both increased revenue and service cuts would be required, compared with 32 percent of suburban voters and 33 percent of downstate respondents who chose this option. Fifty percent of downstate voters chose the “cut waste and inefficiency” option, followed by 47 percent of suburban voters and only 34 percent of Chicago voters who chose this answer.

In terms of party identification, 18 percent of Democrats said increased revenue was the key; 7 percent of independents and 4 percent of Republicans chose this solution. In contrast, 60 percent of Republicans thought eliminating waste and inefficiency was the answer, while 45 percent of independents and 34 percent of Democrats took this choice. The combination of both increased revenue and cuts in services was the solution to the impasse according to 38 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of independents, and 29 percent of Republicans.

“The voters of Illinois are apparently as conflicted and divided over what to do about the budget impasse as their legislators and the governor are”, said John Jackson, one of the designers of the poll.

“When the voters are deeply divided, particularly in policy areas where the divisions are close, the office holders are given more leeway to fashion workable solutions to problems like the budget impasse, and then explain them and sell them to the voters, which is an obligation of leadership in a representative democracy,” Jackson continued.

Despite the growing number of Illinoisans who have come to the conclusion that the state’s budget crisis can only be managed by a blend of tax increases and program cuts, that forces legislators to vote for a pair of negatives; voting for tax increases while voting to cut programs people want and need.

The voters were asked about specific areas where there could be budget cuts in state service in areas ranging across education, welfare and a wide range of other state government services such as the state police, prisons, and parks and environmental regulation. Not a single governmental function was targeted by a majority of the voters as places they would support cuts in the agencies’ budgets.

In the case of K-12 education, fully 82 percent of the respondents were opposed to cutting budgets, and only 15 percent supported. The only function which came close to majority support for cuts was pension systems for public workers where 45 percent favored cuts and 49 percent opposed.

In “programs for poor people,” only 21 percent favored cuts, while 72 percent opposed cuts in those areas. Possible cuts to the state’s universities were opposed by 67 percent and supported by only 30 percent—both providing somewhat unexpected high levels of opposition to places where cuts have already been deep.

The respondents were then asked about a series of specific ways that the state might raise additional revenue. The results showed that naturally some proposals were more popular than others. The most popular proposals had well over majority support.

The single most popular proposal was applying a surcharge of 3 percent on income above one million dollars per year: 78 percent approved; 19 percent disapproved, and 3 percent had no opinion or were undecided. This is a measure which has been championed for several years by House Speaker Mike Madigan. Illinois voters overwhelmingly supported an advisory referendum on the millionaire’s tax proposal in 2014, but House lawmakers narrowly rejected two attempts to place the amendment on the ballot in 2015 and 2016.

The next most popular revenue proposal was amending the constitution to allow a graduated income tax, which 72 percent supported, with 24 percent opposed and 4 percent undecided.

In that same vein, 55 percent favored applying the state income tax only to retirement income above $100,000 per year; 39 percent opposed, and 5 percent were undecided.

Another proposal, which is a part of the current debate over raising revenue, is the possibility of expanding gambling in Illinois. This plan was a part of the “grand bargain,” which had been advocated by Senate President John Cullerton and by Republican Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, which passed the Senate in late February before the bargain fell apart. Gambling expansion was approved by 55 percent and disapproved by 41 percent of respondents, with 4 percent undecided.

Other revenue plans garnered less than majority support. Raising the income tax to 4.99 percent was approved by 35 percent and opposed by 61 percent, with 4 percent undecided. Applying the income tax to all retirement funds was favored by only 23 percent; with 72 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided.

The respondents were asked about expanding the sales tax base “to cover services like home repairs and landscaping.” This proposal was supported by 36 percent and opposed by 60 percent, with 4 percent undecided. But asked if they favored this addition to the sales tax if the overall tax rate was reduced by half a percent, 57.1 percent favored, 39.4 percent opposed, and 3.5 percent said they did not know.

Finally, the poll asked if the gasoline tax should be raised in order to fund improvements to state highways, roads, and bridges: 42 percent favored, 56 percent opposed, and only 2 percent were undecided.

“It’s a perfect storm. There is divided government in Springfield, no clear voter support for a solution, no taste for cuts to specific areas of the budget, and tremendous amounts of campaign cash already gearing up for the 2018 election,” said Delio Calzolari, associate director of the Institute.

* According to the poll, 67 percent opposed cuts to higher education, 70 percent opposed cuts to public safety programs, 63 percent opposed cuts to natural resource programs, 72 percent opposed cuts to programs for the poor, 86 percent opposed cuts to programs for people with mental and physical disabilities and 49 percent opposed cuts to public pension benefits (45 percent favored).

As far as revenues go, 72 percent opposed taxing retirement income, but 68 percent favored that particular tax if the first $100K is exempted.

Toplines are here, crosstabs are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - illini97 - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:18 pm:

    Could any of these voters identify 25 cents of fraud, waste or abuse to cut?

  2. - RNUG - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    In other words, Illinois citizens recognize new revenue is needed but want someone else (the wealthy and wealthy retirees) to be the ones paying the new taxes.

  3. - A guy - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:26 pm:

    Stop the Presses! Oh wait, don’t.

  4. - Beeker - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:31 pm:

    Raising taxes, increasing services or increasing entitlements should require an 85% majority. Decreasing any of the above a simple majority. Problem solved.

  5. - Sir Reel - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:32 pm:

    Forgot to ask if they wanted their cake and to eat it too.

  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    It may not make the ballot, but legislative votes on a millionaire amendment to the Illinois Constitution’s tax provisions might be useful in the 2018 general election.

  7. - up2now - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    You said it, RNUG.

  8. - chi - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    Apologies if this has been previously covered on the blog:
    It’s currently unconstitutional to have a progressive state income tax. I heard a candidate recently arguing that increasing tax credits is a workaround this problem. E.g., no state income tax up to $50k, 8% after that.

    Seemed like it would’ve been proposed already if it would be constitutional.

  9. - Skirmisher - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    You can’t competently govern on the basis of polls. Voters will always want everything for nothing. It’s human nature and in Illinois we have spent decades reenforcing that view.

  10. - plutocrat03 - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:40 pm:

    Benjamin Franklin
    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

    ― Benjamin Franklin

    Are we there yet?

  11. - RNUG - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    == It’s currently unconstitutional to have a progressive state income tax. … ==

    If a Millionaires Tax was passed as a Constitutional Amendment, I suspect the courts would allow it, even though it would be in some conflict with the Flat Tax provision.

    I suspect the reason any large exemption hasn’t been passed is that it would be found in conflict with the Flat Tax provision, being that it would just be a statute, not a voter approved Constitutional Amendment.

  12. - VanillaMan - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:45 pm:

    So, if 60% of Republicans believe that there is enough fraud and waste to balance the budget, where are their proposals to cut that fraud and waste?

    There are 2,000,000 Republicans over the age of 21 who want this done. Does ANY OF THEM have a plan to do this without destroying Illinois?

    We know Rauner hasn’t a single clue.
    How about the other two million?

  13. - thoughts matter - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    What we prefer doesn’t always match reality. When all these people think cuts will solve it, but then can’t name a single program they want to cut…

    We need a poll to find out just how informed these polltakers really are. How many of them really understand what the state does with the money? How many of them have bothered to TRY to understand?

    We can’t determine our solution solely based upon the fact that people who don’t want to understand where the money goes don’t want their taxes raised.

    I’m good with taxing retirement income over $100,000, or even $75,000. I’m good with a graduated income tax or a tax on millionaires - except we can’t get either of those done in a timely manner. I’m good with reducing waste and fraud, but I have enough sense to know that’s a small portion of our deficit.

    I’d rather we didn’t raise sales taxes. I am tired of paying income taxes and then also paying sales taxes from my after income tax money. I’d rather we either had just sales taxes or income taxes. not both. But as I said, preference and reality are two different things.

  14. - RNUG - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:52 pm:

    Why doesn’t some Legislator file a bill to negate paying all outstanding bonds, both State and Local government issued? That would make just a much sense as continuing to try to modify the existing pensions, and it would free up a lot of cash flow. /S

  15. - Beeker - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 12:52 pm:

    Oh thoughts matter…though doth obviously project too much.

  16. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:06 pm:

    Pluto, what is the primary source for your Franklin quote?

    Because researchers over the years have not been able to find it in his writings or among those of his contemporaries.

    It appears to be one of the many fake founder memes that certain bubble-dwellers like to email amongst themselves to elevate the credibility of their own views,

    Let your fingers do the walking on the inner tubes and you’ll see.

  17. - Truthteller - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    The fact that voters don’t want to pay higher taxes is hardly surprising. The question is how it’ll play politically when taxes are inevitably raised. Have many legislators who voted for tax increases in recent years been knocked off because of their vote? I don’t think so.
    A tax increase is a bigger problem for Rauner and the Republicans who had dishonestly claimed the budget could be balanced through cuts alone. That dog died when Rauner failed to use his amendatory power on the budget the legislature handed him. Now he says he wants the authority to make the cuts. He had the chance and blew it

  18. - lake county democrat - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:18 pm:

    RNUG - I suspect a lot of those people (the non-millionaires) would reluctantly agree to pay more in taxes. But as I’ve asked before, why is it so unfair for them to insist on a progressive tax system in exchange? We’re talking about an average household income of $60,000 being asked to give up nearly 2% (and probably getting hit by other tax increases as well). And the Democrats aren’t even trying to make this part of the grand bargain (or keep the tax cuts lower in exchange for political reforms the majority of their constituents want). California effectively solved their budget crisis by soaking the rich: Illinois couldn’t do that to the same extent because, frankly, a lot of people will pay a lot of money to stay in California who wouldn’t to stay in Illinois, but shifting the burden to those more capable of bearing it is a better approach than to squeeze people struggling with their budgets as-is.

  19. - Rod - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    RNUG is totally correct and the electorate has been this way for some time in relationship to wanting services but not paying taxes for them. Ralph Martire who constantly talks about tax increases being affordable in Illinois relative to our current rate of taxation is totally out of touch with the opinion of the masses.

    Here in the City of Chicago in Greg Harris’ legislative district there is endless whining by home owners in their late 30s, 40s and early 50s about property taxes and various fees cooked up by the City. Those of us who are older actually are somewhat more sanguine about the situation because we know for years we paid next to nothing for water, had really low property taxes relative to values, had totally free garbage pick up in some cases twice a week, and in many cases our children got great free public educations at magnet schools or selective high schools.

    It’s all a new taxation reality here much more like the suburbs where many of the younger home and condo owners were raised.

  20. - blue dog dem - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    Can I be in charge of the waste, but believe me K-12 ain’t gonna like it. And then I get to go to LGDF..
    Mayors and commissioners aint gonna like it. Then on to higher ed…

  21. - Porgy Tirebiter - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    Is this the same poll that figured out people want to be able to lose weight on a beer & cheesecake diet. If only the legislature would outlaw those calories it would work

  22. - Shemp - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:36 pm:

    ===It appears to be one of the many fake founder memes that certain bubble-dwellers like to email amongst themselves to elevate the credibility of their own views===

    Regardless of the attribution, the point has validity.

    No doubt we’ve dug too deep a hole to fix via cuts alone, but anyone who has interacted with a number of State agencies knows there is room to make changes.

    However, we’ve spent so much time making a mess of our State and now “we” are boiling very complex issues into political talking points. People’s eyes roll back before you finish defining what the projected unit credit method vs the entry age normal method for calculating pension liabilities. But the willful ignorance by too many is what got us here. If no one understands the problems, and I don’t suspect many posting here do either, I don’t know how we expect anyone to come to a rational solution.

  23. - Anon - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:36 pm:

    This is what happens when leaders never level with their constituents.

  24. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:43 pm:

    How many of the poll respondents favor reforming the biggest drain on taxpayer dollars- our outdated and unaffordable pension system?

  25. - very old soil - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 1:56 pm:

    LP. It’s been done. See Tier 2

  26. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:02 pm:

    Legislators have been elected to do the work of the state not follow polls. If that were the case we could get rid of the house and senate and just take online votes from the people on everything. We need leaders who will do the right thing. No kidding, the time is now, either lead or get out of the way.

  27. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:03 pm:

    The millionaire surcharge is very popular, as we again can see. I believe part of our current fiscal disaster is not charging millionaires and above a higher tax or surcharge, as well as too many tax breaks for corporations.

    I do not, however, expect or want my district’s GA members or governor to not pass a budget and crash the state because I can’t get a millionaire surcharge or corporate tax breaks, and believe me, folks, nobody wants to tax the rich and make wealthy corporations pay their fair share more that I do, okay? Nobody. Believe me.

  28. - Boone's is back - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    I love these- I’m pretty sure I saw this exact same poll 2 years ago. Would love to seem some “waste identifiers” because even the department heads can’t name them.

  29. - City Zen - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:22 pm:

    ==California effectively solved their budget crisis by soaking the rich==

    California residents also spend $3,000 less per pupil on K-12 education than Illinois, even after a thorough soaking.

  30. - SAP - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    ==The single most popular proposal was applying a surcharge of 3 percent on income above one million dollars per year … This is a measure which has been championed for several years by House Speaker Mike Madigan.== That’s a pretty loose definition of the word “championed”.

  31. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    Pretty thin skinned arent ya dude.

  32. - scott aster - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    Rich this is all noise,,,just raise the income tax a point or so and get a deal.

  33. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    Bad news for Rep. McSweeney.

  34. - Harry - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 2:56 pm:

    THIS is why they are at an impasse. The voters are crazy, wanting unreasoinable and inconsistent things, and teh pols are scared to do anything reality-based because that is a sure loser.

    Ogilvie’s ghost still walks the halls of the Capotol

  35. - Reg - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 3:05 pm:

    Herein lies the unions problems: Of all the unsavory aspects of BVR’s turnaround agenda, the anti-union component is arguably the most popular. Do they have the willingness to campaign against BVR on those other issues or will they insist on fighting for a 37.5 hour work week?

  36. - PublicServant - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 3:35 pm:

    Reg, I’m thinking they’re more opposed to unlimited outsourcing, which you conveniently left out.

  37. - Reg - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 4:17 pm:

    PublicServant, my point is that polls like this show that the public at large is mostly fine with union specific attacks. They don’t like when it spills over. Trying to win on 50/50 issues when there are so many 80/20 would be asinine. And yet, I have a hunch the unions are willing to do just that.

  38. - BK Bro - Friday, Mar 17, 17 @ 4:33 pm:

    Lol. In summary, the poll reflects the attitudes of practically every voter in the USA. If you need revenue, tax someone else. Cut “waste,” but not from any of the programs that I use/benefit from.

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