As you probably know, Governor Rod Blagojevich has flatly ruled out an income or sales tax hike in exchange for a property tax cut and more money for education. House Speaker Michael Madigan has said that there isn't sufficient support in his Democratic caucus to pass an income or sales tax hike.
But there's a recent poll out which shows the public disagrees with both politicians. The poll showing majority support for a tax swap plan also seems to be right in line with previous surveys. In addition, the poll found strong opposition to the governor's super-controversial gross receipts tax plan.
The survey, conducted independently by the Glengariff Group, found that about 57 percent of Illinois voters support a so-called "tax swap," while just under 28 percent oppose it.
The question was put to respondents in a very neutral manner, and is one of the better polling questions on this subject that I've ever seen...
"Another idea being discussed would raise the state's income tax from 3% to 5%, increase the sales tax on some services, and increase the state's corporate income tax. In exchange for these tax increases, property taxes would be reduced by 20% to 25% for every homeowner on the school portion of their property taxes. The new money raised would be used to increase funding for schools. Do you support or oppose this legislation?"
36.7 percent "strongly support" the tax hike, with 20.5 percent "somewhat" supporting it. 14 percent are "somewhat" opposed, while 11 percent are "strongly" opposed. 17 percent are undecided, according to the survey.
The survey results prompted a spokesperson for the Illinois Federation of Teachers (which supports a tax hike for education) to say the union would support the idea of the General Assembly fighting it out with the governor this summer if it was necessary to secure more money for schools. But politicians don't usually trust polls on taxation - believing people are far more favorable to the idea until crunch time actually comes.
A poll taken in March for Citizen Action had a much more leading question and found that 66 percent favored an income tax swap, with 25 percent against. Northern Illinois University's comprehensive "Illinois Policy Survey," which was conducted November through January, found that 57 percent supported an income tax swap. A poll taken for Copley News Service last September had 50 percent supporting the tax swap, while 38 percent were opposed. All three polls, however, concentrated only on the income tax. There was no mention of the current proposal to expand sales taxes to services.
The Glengariff live telephone poll of 600 registered voters was taken May 15-18 and has a margin of error of +/-4.0 percent. The poll found that even a majority of Republican voters supported the tax swap proposal (52.6 percent, with 31.9 percent saying they "strongly" support it and just 20 percent saying they "strongly" opposed it). A whopping 65 percent of African-American voters say they back the plan, while 53.6 percent of whites say they support it. Females backed it 61.3 to 24.0, while men supported it 53.0 to 31.6.
Suburban collar county voters backed the proposal 56.8 to 31.0. Majorities of downstate voters supported the swap idea except in southern Illinois, where the backing was more tepid. 67.3 percent of western and northwestern Illinois voters supported the plan, while 51.8 percent of central Illinoisans backed it and 44.3 percent of southerners endorsed it (with 27.9 percent against and the rest undecided). However, the margins of error are quite high on those numbers since they are such small subsets, so they may be right but beware.
The poll also found that Illinoisans are evenly split 43-43 on the governor's gross receipts tax idea, but there is a high number of people who are strongly opposed.
According to the poll, 29 percent of all registered voters strongly oppose the governor's tax plan. That's a higher number than any individual demographic that strongly opposes the tax swap idea. The most strongly opposed voters are in northwest and western Illinois, where 54.5 percent say they're against it, and 43.6 percent say they are strongly against it. 37.8 percent of Republicans are strongly opposed (56.3 total opposed), while 35.6 percent of independents are also strongly opposed (51.8 total opposed). 35.3 percent of collar county voters are also strongly opposed (43.9 percent total opposed).
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com