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Wednesday, April 4, 2007 01:58 pm

Voice of the people

Poll finds wide support for governor’s priorities, not his plan

Untitled Document Gov. Rod Blagojevich insists that his proposed $6 billion gross-receipts tax on business doesn’t break his campaign promise last year not to increase income or sales taxes, but a recent poll finds that voters think otherwise.
The very last question of the 45-question poll, in which voters were told both positive and negative aspects of the proposal, asks this: “Now, during the campaign, Gov. Blagojevich promised not to raise income or sales taxes. By increasing business taxes, do you think, he is keeping his promise or not?”
A clear majority, 54 percent, said the governor was breaking his promise not to raise taxes; just 34 percent said he was keeping his promise. Eleven percent said they didn’t know. The governor told the Associated Press last month that voters shouldn’t be surprised that he would introduce the gross-receipts tax, despite his repeated pledges last year not to raise general taxes. “This gross-receipts — this tax-fairness proposal is very much along the lines of what I did for four years,” the governor said, adding, “It’s just a bigger, bolder version of it.” His top people have repeatedly pointed out that the proposed tax hits businesses, not “people,” so the plan is not a promise-breaker. But a majority appears to disagree. And because the “promise” question was asked after numerous other questions about the governor’s tax hike, both pro and con, the poll’s respondents had a fairly good idea of what the tax proposal was all about. The statewide survey was paid for by business group opponents of the governor’s gross-receipts tax. The poll was professionally done, however. The sample size was 600 voters, and it was taken March 14, 15, and 17 by Neil Newhouse, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The governor’s tax proposal has been hammered in the past several weeks by his fellow Democrats, as well as business and farm groups, the Illinois Press Association, and proponents of an income/sales-tax swap. The governor and his top aides have been traveling the state, holding press conferences with proponents of the idea, and the teachers unions and hospitals have bankrolled a TV-advertising blitz. Meanwhile, 43 percent of Illinoisans said they thought that Blagojevich “can be trusted to manage our tax dollars wisely,” but a majority, 53 percent, disagreed with that statement. Blagojevich’s job approval was pegged in this poll at 46 percent. An equal number, 46 percent, disapproved. By comparison, 47 percent said they approve of the state Legislature’s job performance; 35 percent said they disapprove. About half, 48 percent, said Blagojevich “looks out for the whole state’s best interest, not just Chicago”; 45 percent disagreed. And a whopping 64 percent said Blagojevich “should live and work in Springfield,” but 27 percent said he doesn’t need to. The poll did find broad support for the governor’s stated priorities. For instance, 68 percent of respondents said they favor “expanding early childhood development programs”; 27 percent were opposed. Sixty-five percent said they back “expanding the state’s health care program in order to offer health coverage to uninsured and underinsured state residents”; 31 percent were opposed. And 69 percent liked the idea of “increasing state aid to local public schools by $1.5 billion”; 26 percent were against the idea. But the governor’s revenue-generating ideas were not exactly popular. Just 34 percent of respondents said they favor “creating a new tax on service providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and home contractors”; 60 percent were against it. Only 32 percent said they favor “creating a new tax on business to pay for health care — even if the business already provides health care coverage to its workers”; 60 percent were opposed. And just 22 percent said they back   “creating a new tax which requires businesses to pay the state each time the business gets paid for a product or service — regardless of whether or not the business made a profit.” Seventy-two percent were opposed. The governor definitely has his work cut out for him.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.
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