>Continuing our releases of data on the budget, today we have more details on what NJ residents are willing to cut and what they are not. Quick story: By a large margin they are not supportive of cuts to K-12 education or to laying off teachers, they are mixed (49% oppose – 48% support) on cuts to higher education, and they do not want cuts to assistance to the poor.

What do NJ residents want to cut? They strongly support cut to state aid to local government, and strongly support making it easier to lay off municipal workers.

And they do not support raising taxes or fees to balance the budget.

Here’s the release. Tables and details available here.


Residents support cuts to municipal aid, environmental programs, public transportation and property tax rebates, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – Despite recognition that the state budget needs to be balanced, New Jersey residents believe cuts should be avoided in the areas of education and poverty relief, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today. Majorities want no budget reductions at all in state aid to local schools (57 percent) and programs for the poor (51 percent), while 49 percent oppose cuts to state colleges and universities. A large majority (72 percent) also opposes making it easier to lay off school teachers.

At the same time, majorities of New Jerseyans reject raising additional state revenues through increased taxes or fees to solve the budget problem and especially oppose raising the gas tax and raising state income tax rates generally (72 percent opposed for each).

Residents are willing to accept cuts in some areas, however, with only 31 percent opposing cuts to municipal aid, 39 percent opposing cuts to environmental programs and 42 percent opposing cuts to property tax rebates.

The poll, conducted March 31 – April 3, included 953 New Jersey adults. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

“Our recent poll showed that half of New Jerseyans are displeased with Governor Chris Christie’s proposed budget,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “These new results give a good sense of residents’ priorities in this difficult time. Laying off teachers or significantly cutting school aid are not seen as solutions. On the other hand, given today’s economic challenges, people do not want to see their own costs increase either. The state is between a rock and a hard place, with clear support for a limited number of solutions, one of which is cuts to municipal government.”

Unwilling to make cuts to public education or aid to the poor

Garden State residents strongly oppose funding cuts for their schools; 57 percent are against any cuts, while 15 percent want such aid cut deeper and 26 percent want lesser cuts. Higher education also fares well, as 49 percent oppose any reductions in college and university funding while 18 percent want deeper cuts and 30 percent want more modest cuts. “Though overall there seems to be little stomach for deep school aid cuts, this is driven by Democrats and independents, nearly two-thirds of whom oppose reducing school aid, while only 38 percent of Republicans oppose cuts,” said Redlawsk. He added that independents side with Republicans on cuts for higher education, with a minority of each groups opposing cuts. Conversely, 65 percent of Democrats oppose higher education cuts.

Independents favor protecting local schools and teachers, but are less supportive of state funding for higher education in the current economic environment.

New Jerseyans also want to protect the poor – 51 percent want no cuts in state programs to aid the poor, and 76 percent do not want to balance local budgets by making it easier to decrease assistance to the needy. There is broad agreement on protecting such help at the local level, with only 33 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats supporting cuts. Republicans, however, are much more likely to support reductions to programs for the poor at the state level, with only 34 percent opposing any state cuts, compared to 53 percent of independents and 62 percent of Democrats.

“There is great sympathy for the poor, probably driven by the broad effects the recession has had on people at all economic levels,” said Redlawsk. “At the same time different political philosophies come into play, with conservatives supportive of local efforts but ready to cut statewide programs, while liberals do not want cuts to the poor at any level.”

New Jerseyans willing to fire municipal workers, but not teachers

Given options on how the state could make it easier to balance local budgets, 57 percent of those polled favor making it easier to fire municipal workers; 38 percent oppose this approach. About one-in-four wants to ease restrictions to lay off teachers and police, and one-in-five favors making it easier to cut assistance to the poor.

“New Jerseyans appear to think there are too many municipal workers and that layoffs in this area could help close local budget gaps,” said Redlawsk. He observed that in addition only 31 percent oppose cutting state aid to local governments. “Clearly if there are to be state aid cuts, most residents want them to hit municipal budgets, not school budgets,” he said.

Raising revenues through taxes and fees nixed by most

New Jerseyans overwhelmingly oppose increasing taxes or fees to close the state budget gap, with resistance strongest to raising the gas and state income tax. Seventy-two percent of respondents oppose either measure. Only 25 percent support an increase in the gas tax and 24 percent support a general increase in state income tax. Residents also oppose raising highway tolls (58 percent) and are against fare hikes on buses and trains (57 percent).
Garden Staters are least resistant to an increase in business tax. Just over 51 percent oppose an increase in business tax, while 43 percent express support for such a measure.

“The challenge to the state is how to make the necessary cuts and revenue enhancements to balance the budget,” said Redlawsk. “New Jerseyans are not completely unrealistic, but they do not want across the board cuts. Yet they do not want to pay more in taxes and fees.

“In a late February Rutgers-Eagleton poll, 61 percent opposed eliminating the surtax on high income residents. Even Republicans were more in favor of the surtax (47 percent) than opposed (46 percent). There is no reason to think this has changed over the last month. Taken together with today’s results, this suggests Garden State residents want to protect school funding and poverty programs, are willing to cut municipal funding and want the pain spread around to include high-income New Jerseyans.”


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