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Utahns support education tax hike, oppose higher gas taxes, poll shows

Utahns support education tax hike, oppose higher gas taxes, poll shows

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SALT LAKE CITY — A majority of Utahns support an income tax increase that would go to public schools but only just over one-third back a hike in the gas tax, according to a new poll released Friday.

The Utah State University and The Exoro Group poll, unveiled at a legislative policy summit sponsored by Zions Bank, asked registered voters about a range of issues expected to surface in the 2015 Legislature.

Other issues included the compromise lawmakers reached last year with organizers of the Count My Vote initiative that would have replaced the state's unique caucus and convention system for nominating candidates with a direct primary.

Only 14 percent of those polled want to return to that system, which allows candidates with enough support from party delegates to avoid a primary election. Forty-three percent prefer a direct primary, and 36 percent, the compromise.

The deal reached last session, which is likely to be resisted by some lawmakers, keeps the caucus and convention system while allowing candidates to skip that process and gather signatures to earn a place on the primary ballot.


If my kids are well-educated and my roads are a little bumpy, I'm totally OK with that.

–Damon Cann, USU political science professor


USU political science professor Damon Cann, who drafted questions and analyzed the poll results, said it's not surprising voters would back a tax increase for schools over one for roads.

"If my kids are well-educated and my roads are a little bumpy, I’m totally OK with that," Cann said. "People are weighing these tradeoffs."

The findings on support for a 1 percent income tax increase being proposed by Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, are contrary to a UtahPolicy.com poll released Monday that found 54 percent of voters opposed the increase.

In a split sample, the new poll shows 59 percent of Utahns favor the tax increase, and 27 percent oppose it. When Utahns were told the increase would amount to $575 annually (for a homeowning family of four), support dropped to 51 percent, with 31 percent opposed.

Cann said the difference between the two polls is likely due to specifying that the additional revenue would be used in the classroom rather than go to school administration.

There were also two questions asked about a gas tax increase. When Utahns weren't told how much could be raised, 35 percent favored an increase in the 24.5 cent per gallon tax, with 37 percent opposed.

But when asked about a gas tax increase that would generate $435 million annually, support for an increase dropped to 34 percent, with 35 percent opposed.

Cann said lawmakers are going to have their hands full convincing educating the public about the need for an increase.

Leaders of the Republican-dominated Legislature have said they want to come up with a way to raise more money for roads, but have expressed little interest in an income tax hike for schools.

Nearly two-thirds, 73 percent of Utahns said they believe the state is headed in the right direction and rated education the most important issue facing the state, followed by job development, air quality, health care reform, immigration policy and transportation.

The poll was conducted Dec. 22 through Jan. 10 by Dan Jones & Associates of 715 registered Utah voters. It has a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. Split samples have a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percent.

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Lisa Riley Roche

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