A Hurricane Delay; “Millionaire’s Tax”

Well, we had planned to have a release on our (very interesting, I think) numbers of attitudes toward same-sex marriage in New Jersey, but the hurricane intervened. We’re starting to get back to things, and do hope to do that release still this week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, a small tasty nugget on something else – the ongoing debate over the “millionaire’s tax” in NJ. To recap, at the end of 2009 a surcharge on “high income” earners expired, eliminating some $800,000,000 in revenues for the state budget. Democrats, who could have renewed it with their majority in the legislature and  control of the governor’s office (Gov. Jon Corzine), did not do so, perhaps worried about the election. Then Chris Christie knocked off Corzine, and the tax surcharge did not come up for a vote in the lame duck session before Christie took office. Since then, the Democrats have passed a version of it twice, and the governor has vetoed it both times, saying he refuses to raise taxes on job creators, a standard Republican position these days.

This is one of those issues where polling consistently shows the voting public strongly in favor of the tax (60-70 percent, in fact). So we decided to ask a version of the question again in this most recent poll. What did we find?

Millionaire’s Tax – August 2011

Well, we asked it a little differently this time, giving a choice between the tax and budget cuts. Asked to chose between cutting the state budget or asking high income earners to pay additional taxes, 55 percent say they would prefer a tax increase, 40 percent would rather make cuts to the budget, and 5 percent say they don’t know. Here’s the question (N=615, MoE = +/- 3.9 points):

Democrats say that a tax surcharge on high income residents will allow the state to better fund education and other programs. Governor Christie opposes the tax surcharge saying higher taxes hurt jobs. Which do you prefer: cutting the state budget or asking high income earners to pay additional income tax?

Not surprisingly, Democrats do not want to cut the state budget, and Republicans do. But Independents lean with the Democrats here, preferring the tax by 51 percent to 43 percent.

Dem

Ind

Rep

Cut State Budget

16%

43%

73%

Tax Surcharge

79%

51%

24%

DK

5%

7%

3%

N=

185

297

113

Back when we asked the question in February 2011 without giving the choice for budget cuts directly, 52 percent of respondents said then that they strongly supported a tax increase, 20 percent somewhat supported a tax increase compared to 12 percent who somewhat opposed and 15 percent who strongly opposed it. That question was:

Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a tax surcharge on incomes of more than $1 million. Now the legislature may try again. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose increasing taxes on very high incomes to help close the budget gap?

It’s worth noting that when we put it that way, some 72 percent support increasing taxes on “very” high income earners. But when we drop the “very” and give the option to cut the budget, the numbers shift a bit, and while a majority still prefers the tax surcharge, the percentage drops significantly.

What can we take away from this? NJ Voters ARE in favor of higher taxes on high income earners, and by a significant margin. But there is a large minority, driven by Republicans, who do not want to reimpose the tax, and would rather cut the budget. Even so, it is fascinating that polling of all kinds continues to show a preference for increased taxes on high income earners, with the question asked in different many ways. But what are the chances it will happen? Exactly none as long as Chris Christie is governor and sticks by his position.

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