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DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN: Voters Want State Government Reform – WSJ.com

September 19, 2011

Voters Want State Government Reform

Polling in 10 states shows that Americans want politicians to cut spending and reduce public employee benefits before they raise taxes.

OPINION SEPTEMBER 18, 2011

By DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN

Americans believe that bold action to restrict spending is necessary to stabilize the finances of state government.

Last month, in a wide-ranging national survey of 1,000 randomly selected, registered voters, and in 10 polls in individual states each with 400 responVoters Want State Government Reformsdents, my polling company found that voters strongly favor measures to pare the compensation of current and future public employees. They strongly oppose higher taxes.

Specifically, over three-quarters (78%) say their state faced a budget crisis this year, and 68% say that the crisis was resolved with spending cuts. Overwhelmingly they blame politicians for creating and exacerbating the problems: 48% say “elected state officials made careless and self-serving decisions,” while only 6% say “state governments did not tax enough.”

The top priorities for resolving current fiscal issues are to cut government spending (47%) and to ask for greater sacrifice from current public employees, by having them contribute more towards their benefits (31%). By almost two-to-one, they think that current public employees should have to contribute more toward their pension benefits because of budget problems.

A majority (51%) say they would not be willing to cut “social service programs provided by your state” to maintain the compensation of public employees; and 60% say that “education and health care” should not be cut so that “the salaries and benefits of public employees could be paid at current levels.”

Further, by 48% to 40%, voters say that public employees’ salaries should be “frozen,” and they should be required to contribute more towards their benefits when states face the type of crises they are now facing. Close to two-thirds (64%) say they would not be willing to have their taxes raised as a means of keeping salaries and benefits of current employees at current levels.

via Douglas E. Schoen: Voters Want State Government Reform – WSJ.com.

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