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New Elway Poll shows majority support for tax hike

by David Ammons | November 29th, 2011

A new statewide Elway Poll by independent pollster Stuart Elway shows nearly two-thirds of Washington voters are “certainly” or “probably” willing to support Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal for a three-year boost of the state sales tax by a half-cent on the dollar.

Elway said polling done last week with 408 randomly selected Washington voters across the state showed that voters want lawmakers to cut spending, but that new revenue will also need to be part of the solution. In his sample, 44 percent described themselves as independents, 33 percent as Democrats and 23 percent as Republicans.

Gregoire’s proposal, which received an airing before the Senate budget panel on Tuesday, would bring in about $500 million a year. She has other revenue ideas, too, including ending some tax preferences.   Any new revenue approved by the Legislature and voters would be used to restore some of the cuts in her $1.7 billion all-cuts budget she has submitted, including K-12, higher education, health care, prisons, and social programs.

Lawmakers left Olympia last May 25 with a carefully balanced $32 billion two-year budget in place, but the ailing economy knocked a big hole in consumer and business confidence, slashed well over a billion dollars from expected state revenue.  Lawmakers convened in special session on Monday to figure out what to do, with thousands of protesters urging less cuts and more new revenue.

Elway’s poll showed 43 percent “certainly willing” and 21 percent “probably willing” to accept the Gregoire plan.  Elway’s analysis:

“Most have wanted the emphasis to be on spending cuts, but do not believe that cuts alone will get the job done. Most voters have always believed that taxes will have to be part of the solution. … Voters’ appetite for an all-cuts budget has diminished substantially … The programs on the chopping block now are programs important to Washington voters, like education and the social safety net.”

Majority Democrats and the Democratic governor have been making a similar argument.  Most Republicans have said they will resist a general tax increase, possibly looking at expansion of non-tribal gambling and some tax loophole closures.

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