Poll: Pa. Voters Favor Balanced Approach to State Budget with Savings, New Revenue

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Audio of April 13 conference call with Ben Tulchin of Tulchin Research and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Download the audio here.

HARRISBURG, PA (April 13, 2010) - Pennsylvania voters widely favor addressing the state budget shortfall with a balanced approach that includes savings and new revenue, according to a poll released by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Pennsylvania is one of 48 states dealing with recession-driven budget challenges. Additional challenges loom in future years, including the loss of federal recovery funds, the failed plan to toll Interstate 80, and rising pension obligations.

Some state lawmakers favor a cuts-only approach to resolving budget challenges, but that view is not broadly supported by Pennsylvanians, according to the poll.

“By a two-to-one margin, Pennsylvania voters support a comprehensive solution of savings, accountability, and tax increases to balance the budget without cutting investments in education, health care and other public services,” said Ben Tulchin of Tulchin Research, which conducted the poll.

There was significant support for revenue measures now under consideration in the General Assembly, including closing corporate tax loopholes and ending special interest tax exemptions for smokeless tobacco, cigars and natural gas drilling. While there was little support for an across-the-board increase in the personal income tax rate, voters strongly favored reforming the income tax system so that wealthier families pay a higher rate on their earnings and investment income.

“The public expects government to tighten its belt, but will accept new revenue measures to preserve public services and investments,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Voters Favor a Balanced Approach to Budget

According to the poll, 60% of voters favor a balanced approach of “accountability, finding savings, and then raising taxes and fees to prevent cuts,” compared to 26% who favor cutting services alone to balance the budget.

Support for a balanced approach crosses party lines, with more than two-thirds of independents (69%) and strong majorities of Democrats (64%) and Republicans (54%) favoring a comprehensive solution.

Majorities of voters in most regions of the state support a balanced approach:

  • 75% in Philadelphia and 69% in the Philly suburbs
  • 62% in Scranton-Wilkes Barre
  • 60% in Harrisburg-Lancaster-York
  • 55% in Berks-Lehigh
  • 55% in Johnstown-Altoona

Voters Want to Close Corporate Tax Loopholes, End Sweetheart Tax Deals for Rich

Four in five Pennsylvania voters voice support for closing corporate tax loopholes that allow major multi-state corporations to avoid taxes by shifting income to mailbox subsidiaries in low- and no-tax states like Delaware.

Voters also support ending special tax treatments for the tobacco and natural gas industries and fixing a 19th Century provision of the state constitution that overwhelmingly benefits wealthy individuals.

The poll shows:

  • 81% support closing corporate tax loopholes, with 58% strongly in support.
  • 68% support a tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco products, with 55 % strongly supporting.
  • 51% would tax natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale

While a majority of voters opposes an across-the-board increase in the personal income tax, there is broad support for income tax reform:

  • 60% support reforming the tax system so that wealthier individuals pay a higher rate than middle-class taxpayers.
  • 56% support a higher rate on investment income and capital gains earned by wealthy individuals.

“Ending special tax breaks for natural gas and tobacco companies are far better alternatives to deep cuts in education, infrastructure, health care and other services that families rely on,” Ward said. “That’s why voters favor a balanced approach to balancing the budget.”

Read the Polling Memo

Methodology: Between December 15 and 20, 2009, Tulchin Research conducted a telephone survey of 650 likely voters in Pennsylvania, with 600 voters statewide and an oversample of 50 voters in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The margin of error is +/- 3.9 percentage points for the statewide sample.