Michigan voters resoundingly reject income tax repeal plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 13, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
517.487.5436
arossman@mlpp.org

Strong majority says quality services, not tax cuts, lead to more and better jobs

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan lawmakers advocating to repeal the state’s income tax without replacement will find little support from voters—and almost no support once voters are told of the impact of repeal, according to a statewide poll commissioned by the Michigan League for Public Policy from EPIC/MRA.

The telephone poll conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 2 contacted 600 Michigan voters and has a margin of error of four points. The League asked questions to learn how voters feel about legislative discussions to eliminate the state’s income tax, which provides 40 percent of the state’s General Fund and School Aid Fund. Voters were also asked if they believe tax cuts or quality government services would best lead to more and better jobs. The results:

  • Voters oppose eliminating the state’s income tax over time without replacement by 74-16 percent, with 45 percent of voters “strongly opposed.”
  • When informed that the state income tax provides 40 percent of state revenue used for K-12, higher education and medical care for the poor, and that ending it means cutting those services, 87 percent oppose eliminating the income tax.
  • Asked whether quality services or more tax cuts would be most effective in creating more and better jobs, voters supported quality services by 67-30 percent.

“It’s time for lawmakers to stop advocating for tax cuts and instead turn their attention to funding what voters and economists say truly make a difference in lowering unemployment and increasing incomes—quality education, reliable infrastructure, clean air and water and other services residents and businesses depend on in our state,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“If lawmakers really want to help the people of Michigan, they should listen to what they want. Those saying tax cuts will improve our economy are ignoring reality—and their constituents,” Jacobs said, noting that the state’s tax burden now ranks 36th in the nation according to state officials. “We’ve tried tax cuts to boost our state’s economy and it hasn’t worked, and the people of Michigan clearly see that.”

“Due in part to continued tax cuts, Michigan has experienced more than a decade of disinvestment in our state services and our people,” said Jacobs. “Many working families have yet to feel any economic recovery. Meanwhile, our residents are saddled with roads and water systems that are not safe let alone adequate, a struggling education system and college tuition that is sky high due to state budget cuts.”

More details on the survey follow:


1. Bills introduced in the Michigan Legislature would eliminate the state’s income tax over time over several years, but without replacing the revenue that would be lost. Do you favor or oppose eliminating the state’s income tax without a replacement of lost revenue? [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK: “Would that be strongly or somewhat?”]

7% | Strongly favor
9% | Somewhat favor
16%  | TOTAL FAVOR
73% | TOTAL OPPOSE
28% | Somewhat oppose
45% | Strongly oppose
11% | Undecided/Refused

Opposition to an income tax elimination without replacement, even over time, was strong and across the board. Looking at party identification, 68 percent of Republicans opposed ending the income tax (37 percent strongly opposed), 79 percent of Independents said they were opposed (36 percent strongly opposed) and 78 percent of Democrats were opposed (57 percent strongly opposed).

In Macomb County, 66 percent of voters said they were opposed to this type of legislation; only 16 percent supported and 18 percent were undecided. In Northern Michigan, 69 percent of respondents opposed, 16 percent supported and 15 percent were undecided. In West Michigan, 78 percent opposed and only 9 percent favored eliminating the income tax.

The poll then informed voters about the cuts that would be required if the income tax were eliminated – and found opposition increased even more.

2. Today’s state income tax provides $4 of every $10 used for Michigan’s K-12 schools, higher education, medical care for poor children, the disabled and other state programs. That would mean cutting support for local schools, closing universities or requiring higher tuition, and cutting health care for poor children and the disabled. Knowing that, let me ask you again, do you favor or oppose eliminating the state’s income tax without replacing the lost revenue? [IF FAVOR/OPPOSE, ASK: “Would that be strongly or somewhat?” AND CODE BEST RESPONSE]

4% | Strongly favor
4% | Somewhat favor
8% | TOTAL FAVOR
87% | TOTAL OPPOSE
35% | Somewhat oppose
52% | Strongly oppose
5% | Undecided/Refused

Virtually every group expressed strong opposition to repealing the income tax after being informed about the cuts that would be required.

Looking at party identification, 81 percent of Republican voters opposed eliminating the income tax after being informed, with 42 percent strongly opposed, compared to 90 percent of Independent voters and 94 percent of Democrats.

Those surveyed were also asked about what they thought was the most important thing state government could do to create more and better jobs and improve our quality of life.

3. Which of the following two statements comes closer to your view? [ROTATE TWO PARAGRAPHS BELOW]

  1. The most important thing state government can do to provide more and better jobs and a higher quality of life for Michigan families is provide a quality education, good roads and transportation, quality public services like safety, water, fire protection, parks and libraries that create an environment in which people want to live, work and run a business.
  2. The most important thing state government can do to create more and better jobs and improve the quality of life in Michigan is to cut taxes for individuals and business. That’s what really creates more and better jobs and will make our state a better place to live and work.
67% | Statement 1 — provide a quality education, good roads & transportation, & quality public services
30% | Statement 2 — cut taxes for individuals and business
3% | Undecided/Refused

By more than two to one, respondents said that the best way to deliver more and better jobs is through providing quality public goods – not cutting taxes. Support for quality services was highest among Democrats (83 percent saying services and 14 percent supporting lower taxes), but even self-identified Republicans backed better services over tax cuts, 53-44 percent.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.