Freedom Foundation

Washington Voters Oppose Tax Increases for Education

A just-released Elway Poll asked voters in Washington for their views about the upcoming legislative session.

The National Public Radio station at the University of Washington reported on the poll with the headline, “Elway Poll Suggests Washington Voters Open To Higher Taxes.”

The Everett Herald announced, “Survey finds favor among voters for Inslee tax plans.” The Seattle Times suggested, “Poll: voters open to Inslee’s taxes on carbon and capital gains.”

In fact, the poll finds voters unwilling to take higher taxes.

The NPR report actually refutes its own headline in the lead sentence of its report, which notes, “Washington voters would prefer no new taxes and no deep cuts to state services. But if that’s not possible, they’re open to some new taxes.”

Here is the actual question:

One of the first issues the Legislature will face is how to deal with these education mandates. The following are some general approaches being proposed. As I read each one, tell me whether you would: 1) be inclined to Favor that approach; 2) think it could be Acceptable; 3) be inclined to Oppose that approach; or 4) find it Unacceptable.

I realize you don’t have all the details, but how are you inclined? The first one is…
1) fund public education first with existing revenue. Then fund the rest of state government with the money remaining—even if that means cutting other services;
2) increase taxes necessary to fund the supreme court and voter mandates to reduce class size without making further cuts to other programs and services; or,
3)  do as much as possible to fund education and reduce class sizes without raising taxes and without deep cuts to other programs – even if that means we do not fully implement the education mandates.

And here is the result:

This should not be a surprising revelation. Voters have faced the question before on the ballot.

In 2004, 60 percent of voters rejected Initiative 884 asking for a 1 percent increase in the sale tax for education.

In 2010, 65 percent of voters reject Initiative 1098 asking for a tax levied only on the rich to fund education and health needs of the poor.

The claim that voters support the tax ideas suggested by Gov. Inslee is drawn from a follow-up question. It explains that the governor is proposing taxes and asks what the voter thinks about each idea.

The implication of the question is that taxes are a given, so the respondent is asked decide what flavor is most palatable.

Not surprisingly, for people who think a tax is mandatory, the most popular version  is the one someone else pays. The four offered ideas ranked from most acceptable to least are (1) cigarette taxes, (2) carbon taxes, (3) capital gains, and (4) bottled water.

This is hardly an endorsement of the governor’s proposed tax increases.

The most interesting finding is that 65 percent of voters oppose tax increases or deep cuts “even if that means we do not fully implement the education mandates.”