A statewide survey suggests Kansans want lower property taxes before an income tax cut, the opposite of what the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback enacted this year.
Kansas Speaks 2012, an annual scientific survey measuring important issues in the lives of Kansans, found that the income tax-cutting mantra of Brownback and the Republicans is not resonating with a majority of voters, said Chapman Rackaway, a research fellow working with the survey’s author, the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University.
“Our results show that the tax structure they want seems to be completely the opposite of the tax policies coming from the Legislature,” said Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute.
In addition to a property tax cut, respondents want K-12 education spending increased or kept the same, Rackaway said. The complete survey results are included as an insert in today’s Eagle.
The survey was constructed, college officials said, as closely as possible to the state’s voter registration demographic: 51.6 percent were Republicans, including independent-leaning Republicans. Democrats, including independent-leaning voters, made up 29.9 percent, with 18 percent independents.
The survey has a margin of error of 3.2 percent. It contacted 4,468 Kansans, mostly by telephone, with 928 completing the survey. The highest response rates are from white, non-Hispanic Kansans over the age of 55. The identity of respondents is confidential. The survey has been conducted since 2009.
“The old concept of the three-legged stool on state tax rates was coined by (former Kansas governor) Bill Graves,” Rackaway said. “The legs of the stool have to be even, but Gov. Brownback has thrown out one of the legs with the cuts in income taxes. There’s an imbalance in the stool now, and we found that Kansas voters did not support the idea of dropping those taxes. We found that to be significant.
“Allies of the governor pushing his low-tax message won in the primaries, but there is significant data out there showing Kansas voters may not have been responding to the tax issue. Their preferences seem severely out of sync with the governor’s.”
The survey showed clearly that Kansas voters want their property taxes cut — 52 percent advocating for property tax cuts versus 35 percent for income tax cuts — and like national polls, they favor by large numbers increasing taxes on large corporations and top earners.
The survey showed Kansans were essentially split on the economic performance and the Republicans: about 40 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the work of Brownback and the Republicans on the Kansas economy, with a little more than 22 percent neutral and 37 percent in support. The difference between support and opposition was within the poll’s margin of error.
It’s too early to predict Brownback’s chances for a second term, Rackaway said.
“If there’s a Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, a popular name with a good message that’s well funded and they can rebuild their campaign organization, then maybe it spells a concern for Brownback,” Rackaway said.
“But until we know whether they’re going to offer up a Kathleen Sebelius or a Tom Holland, it’s impossible to say for certain.”
Survey respondents’ support for K-12 education funding is unflinching, with more than 58 percent saying state education spending should be increased and 34 percent saying it should be kept the same. Less than 10 percent favor cutting education spending.
“Overall, the respondents are most concerned with K-12 education,” Brinker said. “Obviously, a high percentage of them did say the state should decrease spending, but clearly they don’t think that should be done in education. They have other areas in mind.”
There are also some contradictions in the survey: Respondents want more social services spending, not the cuts crafted by the Legislature and the governor.
But they support the Republican effort to rein in state spending, with 50.4 percent calling for spending reductions.
It’s a typical contradiction, even in national surveys, Rackaway said.
“One thing you have to bear in mind is the idea of constraint with the voters,” he said. “In national polling, we see a strong correlation between wanting lower taxes and higher government spending.
“You have to be a little cautious, since these are voters who aren’t making policy decisions who can kind of spend other people’s money.”
Other highlights of the survey include:
• The majority of respondents — almost 54 percent — still think Kansas is an excellent or very good place to live, but that number has slid since 2009, with more opting for “fair,” Brinker said.
• They are opposed to the Affordable Care Act, with more than 60 percent saying the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law was wrong.
• Half of the survey’s respondents support more wind energy development, with only a third supporting oil development. One-third favored no support for nuclear energy.
• Almost 98 percent of respondents have a government-issued photo ID, enabling them to vote under the state’s voting laws. However, almost half of the people without an ID have no intention of getting one, meaning that more than 17,000 voting-eligible Kansas residents won’t be able to do so.