More than half of Louisiana voters want the state to spend more on education and would be willing to pay higher taxes for it, according to the latest Louisiana Survey from LSU.
LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab’s latest public opinion poll tested voters’ attitudes from Feb. 1-26, as lawmakers met in special legislative session and prepare to head into regular session on Monday.
The poll found that 51 percent of the public would be willing to pay more taxes for an increase in K-12 education, and 50 percent would pay higher taxes to increase funding for higher education.
Additionally, 46 percent of respondents said they would pay higher taxes to increase spending on transportation.
“People are more open to higher taxation if it supports programs they value,” Michael Henderson, who directed the survey, said in a release on its findings. “This highlights the danger in just asking about spending or just asking about taxes. When people think in terms of tradeoffs that law makers face — deciding between cutting spending to specific programs and raising revenue to pay for those programs — they are willing to pay more in taxes.”
When only asked about taxes, a significant majority said the state income and sales taxes and personal state tax burdens were either “about right” or should be increased.
“The shares of state residents who think the income tax and the sales tax are ‘too high and need to be reduced’ have dropped significantly in recent years, landing at their lowest points on record since the survey began tracking these opinions in 2013,” the researchers conclude.
The state Legislature just wrapped up a 25-day special session that had lawmakers weighing budget cuts against higher taxes. The session wound down in a last-minute flurry of action that will increase sales taxes but still threaten deep cuts to higher education, health care and other state agencies in the coming year.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s end of the special session, said the $800 million shortfall remaining in the budget that begins July 1 threatens all state services — from prisons to public education.
“I’m very concerned about all of them,” he said. “It’s going to be a painstaking process.”
He wouldn’t rule out the potential for a second special session in June, after legislators wrap up the regular session, but said he is still concerned that it would be too late for agencies to adequately prepare less than a month before the new budget cycle begins.
“Many institutions and agencies are going to have to move forward with large-scale cuts,” he said.
Edwards also has called on lawmakers to overhaul the state tax structure during the next regular session in which such items can be brought up. Some fiscal measures can only be brought up in odd years, under state law.
“We need comprehensive tax reform in 2017,” Edwards said.
The LSU polled included more than 1,000 respondents via land line and cell phones. The margin of error is 3.1 percent.