BATON ROUGE – The LSU Public Policy Research Lab, or PPRL, supported by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at the Manship School of Mass Communication, has released the second round of results from their annual Louisiana Survey showing 47 percent of Louisiana residents believe Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposed tax swap is a bad idea. Thirty-six percent said they haven’t given it enough thought. Only 17 percent of residents said it was good idea. These are among the findings of the 2013 Louisiana Survey that portray a difficult landscape for tax reform in the upcoming legislative session.
Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab, said, “Unlike last year when Governor Bobby Jindal tackled an issue – education reform – most Louisiana residents recognized as a problem, citizens see tax reform as less of a priority and Governor Jindal’s proposed solution is at odds with public sentiment.”
According to Goidel, there is little evidence of a tax revolt in the data.
First, when asked in an open-ended format, few Louisiana residents – less than 2 percent – specifically offer taxes as the state’s most important problem. While a larger and growing number -11 percent – identify the state budget as the most important problem, this number also captures concern about taxes and ongoing budget cuts.
When asked about the best approach for balancing the state budget, residents express a strong preference -67 percent – for a balanced approach involving a combination of tax increases and spending cuts rather than tax increases alone (3 percent) or spending cuts alone (27 percent). And, citizens express concern about the ability of state government to provide basic public service: 54 percent of respondents said they were very concerned and 30 percent somewhat concerned about the state’s ability to provide adequate funding for public services.
Second, while the percent of residents saying state sales and state income taxes are too high and need to be reduced has increased over the past year, residents consistently express more concern about sales taxes. Concern that state income taxes were too high and need to be reduced increased from 30 percent in 2012 to 37 percent in 2013. At the same time, concern that state sales were too high increased from 35 percent to 45 percent.
When asked about the possibility of raising specific taxes, only a third of residents would support a one cent increase in the sales tax. While support of a sales tax increased from 28 percent in 2012, the low level of overall support reflects resistance to a tax increase on a tax many residents already believe is too high.
As in prior years, the survey reveals substantial support for increasing “sin taxes” on tobacco, alcohol and gaming, though support for taxing tobacco and alcohol declined relative to 2012.
Third, most Louisiana residents -70 percent- said the current system was at least moderately fair. Where they do perceive injustice in the system, their views are better characterized as populist than conservative. Sixty-two percent of respondents said what bothers them most about taxes is the feeling that some people get away without paying their fair share, 11 percent said they were most bothered by the amount they paid in taxes and 14 percent said they were bothered by complexity of the tax system.
When asked to clarify which groups are paying more or less than their fair share, Louisiana residents said the rich and large businesses were not paying their fair share, while the middle class and small businesses were getting squeezed. Sixty-four percent of respondents, for example, said the rich pay less than their fair share while only 7 percent said the middle class was paying less than their fair share.
Residents do appear open to some version of tax reform. When asked whether the current system worked pretty well or needed to be completely changed, citizens were evenly divided – 47 percent said the system worked pretty well and 47 percent said it needed to be completely changed. And, residents generally expressed strong support for the idea that tax reform should be directing at offsetting cuts in health care and higher education and/or reducing the complexity of the tax code. Seventy-two percent agreed or strongly agreed that tax cuts should be directed at offsetting cuts to health care and higher education and 65 percent agreed or strongly agreed reform should be aimed at reducing the complexity of the tax code.
“Overall, our results reveal a frustration with the budgeting processes and a resistance to increasing the sales taxes,” said Goidel. “But there is some willingness to consider tax reform as a mechanism for reducing the complexity of the tax system or to offset cuts to higher education and health care.”
For more information or a copy of the report, visit www.lsu.edu/survey.
About the Survey:
The 2013 Louisiana Survey includes a traditional landline telephone survey combined with a survey of Louisiana cell phone users. The results presented here have been weighted to reflect current population demographics as reflected in the most recent available Census data. The combined survey includes 930 respondents including 574 respondents selected from landline telephone numbers via random-digit dialing and 356 respondents selected from available cell phone blocks. Interviews were conducted from Feb. 8 to March 17. The overall survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.