Poll shows Utahns support some sort of tax hike to fund public schools

More than two-thirds of Utahns want Our Schools Now to go forward with their citizen initiative petition and put before 2018 voters a possible state income tax hike for public schools, a new UtahPolicy.com poll shows.

In addition, we listed several alternative tax increase possibilities to our respondents.

And Dan Jones & Associates found large majorities also favor an income tax hike, or a sales tax hike, or a combination of those two, or any of the above.

It must be said that support for a 7/8th of a percent increase in the personal income tax rate (OSN original idea) has dwindled some since leading state Republicans – like Gov. Gary Herbert – have come out against such an increase.

UtahPolicy is told that Herbert and GOP leaders in the Legislature are pressuring Our Schools Now backers to ditch the straight income tax increase in favor of a state sales tax hike or some kind of tax combination – and OSN bosses are considering it.

Still, the latest Jones survey shows healthy majorities for some kind of tax increase for public schools – where Utah remains last in the nation in per-pupil spending K-12.

Jones finds:

  • 8 percent of Utahns favor a 1 percent income tax increase for schools.
  • 12 percent want a 1 percent hike in the state sales tax.
  • 27 percent want a ½ percent increase in both the income tax and the sales tax, for a total 1 percent hike.
  • 33 percent (or one-third) oppose any tax hike for schools.
  • 15 percent say they would be happy with any of the above tax hikes for public education.
  • While 5 percent don’t know.


If you add together those who want some kind of tax hike for schools, you get a total of 62 percent in favor of any of the above tax changes, compared to 33 percent who oppose any tax hike for schools. The 5 percent “don’t knows” are not added into those equations.

Jones also asked Utahns if the OSN group should go forward with their petition drive. If they get around 120,000 voter signatures, with at least 10 percent of the voters in 26 of 29 state Senate districts, then their tax hike proposal – no matter what form it takes – will go before voters next November.

Jones finds that 69 percent of Utahns want OSN to go ahead with their ballot drive – so at least voters can decide whether to raise their taxes in some form for their public schools.

Twenty-seven percent want OSN to stop their effort, don’t even try to get the matter before voters for their decision, and 6 percent don’t know.

While Herbert and Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue into public education, they have steadfastly refused to raise tax rates for schools – even though study after study shows Utah falling behind in education spending, and new teachers quitting the field or moving out of state to earn more money.

Even targeted monies to reduce over-crowded class sizes have had little effect there.

Thus the OSN movement, which would see at least a $1,000 per-student increase in funding, with some elementary schools getting hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year, a large high school seeing upwards of $2 million a year more.

And the OSN petition would bypass Herbert and GOP lawmakers, going directly to citizens to raise more money for local schools.

Meanwhile, Herbert and GOP legislative leaders are this summer studying ways to increase taxes by reallocating existing monies and/or doing away with income and sales tax exemptions and deductions. They promise some action on those fronts in the January 2018 Legislature.

But even our state leaders admit such efforts won’t raise the $750 million more annually that OSN is talking about.

So, who is in favor tax hikes?

Jones finds:

  • Republicans – 3 percent for income tax hike; 12 percent for sales tax; 27 percent for ½ of each; 41 percent for no tax hike at all; 12 percent for any tax hike; with 6 percent don’t know.

Thus, 55 percent of Republicans want some kind of tax hike for schools, 41 percent don’t.

  • Democrats – 21 percent for income tax; 11 percent for sales tax; 30 percent for ½ of each; 13 percent against any tax hike; 22 percent for any of the above tax hikes; with 3 percent don’t know.

Or, 84 percent of Democrats want a school tax increase, 13 percent don’t.

  • Political independents – 10 percent for an income tax increase; 13 percent for sales tax; 27 percent for ½ percent hike of each; 27 percent against any tax hike; 18 percent in favor of any kind of tax hike; with 5 percent don’t know.

So, 68 percent of political independents (who don’t belong to any party) favor a tax increase, 27 percent oppose.

In fact, Jones finds that only among those who self-identified themselves as “very conservative” politically do you find any demographic or political group AGAINST tax hikes for schools.

Among the “very conservative:” Only 35 percent say they favor some kind of tax increase, 61 percent oppose a tax hike for school kids.

  • For those who said they are “somewhat conservative,” 60-35 percent in favor of some kind of tax increase.
  • The “moderates,” 76-21 percent for tax hikes.
  • “Somewhat liberal,” 83-13 percent in favor.
  • “Very liberal,” 80-15 percent.

More than three-fourths of the Utah House and Senate are Republican, around 80 percent of all lawmakers say they are members of the LDS Church.

Jones finds that among Utahns who said they are “very active” Mormons, 58 percent want some type of tax hike for schools, 36 percent are opposed.

And with those who said they are “somewhat” active in the LDS Church, 59 percent want a school tax increase, 31 percent are opposed. Those of other regions also favor a tax increase.

Those who said they have no religion favor a tax hike for schools, 76-23 percent.

By this fall, OSN leaders tell UtahPolicy, they will begin their collection of voter signatures, and we’ll know then exactly what kind of tax increases they will suggest.

Jones polled 844 adults from March 22-29. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.37 percent.