Utahns Overwhelmingly Support Income Tax Increase to Fund Public Education

Utah State Capitol 23Two-thirds of Utahns support a personal income tax increase to support public schools, a new UtahPolicy poll shows.

Such a vote may well come in the 2017 Legislature, as pro-public education advocates begin an active campaign to get the state’s GOP legislative majority to agree to such a tax hike.

UPD pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds in our latest survey:

  • 64 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” approve of an increase in the personal income tax rate from 5 percent to 5 and 7/8th percent for public schools.
  • 31 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose such a tax hike.
  • And 4 percent don’t know.

For years Utah has ranked dead last among the states in per-pupil spending.

True, Utah does much better than last in student test scores and high school graduation rates – so while public school students here get less money for their education, the results are encouraging.

However, public education advocates say, it is time for Utah taxpayers to step up and pay more to support their public schools.

 

The Utah Constitution says all personal and corporate income taxes go to support public colleges and K-12 schools.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert seeks re-election this year. He has already soundly defeated his main GOP challenger, Jonathan Johnson.

Herbert now faces Democrat Mike Weinholtz, who has called for more spending on public schools.

Utah has not elected a Democratic governor since 1980, and Herbert has significant leads in Jones’ polls against Weinholtz.

Herbert has listed greater “investment” in public schools as one of his goals in making Utah the leading state in public education over the next four years – a lofty goal.

“Investment” often means more public school funding, which means a tax hike of some kind.

Already business and education groups are calling for a personal income tax hike of 7/8th percent, although such a plan has not gotten a vote in the Legislature.

Education First and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce/Prosperity2020are both calling for more tax revenue for schools.

Jones, in his latest poll, finds considerable support for that cause.

In fact, only one demographic group – those who said they are “very conservative” philosophically – doesn’t have a majority for the nearly-1-percent tax hike.

Jones finds:

  • The “very conservative” oppose the tax increase, 52-44 percent.

Some-what conservatives, moderates, and liberals strongly support an income tax increase for schools.

  • Those who said they are Republicans favor the increase, 58-36 percent.
  • Democrats favor the tax hike, 84-13 percent.
  • Those who said they are political independents – don’t belong to any political party – favor it, 67-31 percent.

Historically, Mormons encourage education and push their children to get good schooling.

Jones finds that those who said they are “very active” in their LDS faith support the tax increase, 65-31 percent. All other religions, and those who no religion, also greatly favor the growth.

Here is an interesting gender breakout: Utah women are much more supportive of the tax hike than are Utah men – although both genders favor it.

Traditionally, women have more to do with their children’s education than do men.

Jones finds that 57 percent of men support the 1 percent personal income tax hike, but 72 percent of women do.

That is statistically a significant difference.

Only 23 percent of women oppose the tax increase, while 40 percent of the men do, Jones found.

There has been talk that pro-education groups may try to get on the 2018 ballot an initiative to raise the personal income tax should the 2017 or 2018 Legislature refuse to do so.

Or the groups may try to get a non-binding referendum – seeking voter support – for such a tax hike.

But perhaps SB54 – the alternative route to the primary ballot for candidates – may free GOP lawmakers from fear of their right-wing county and state party delegates.

And maybe future Legislatures will take up the public school tax hike without the political cover of a citizen-backed initiative or referendum.

In short, perhaps the GOP legislative majority will have the political guts to do what two-thirds of their constituents want concerning public education funding.

Jones polled 614 adults from June 8-17. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.95 percent.