To Balance State Budget, Raise Revenue or Cut Services?
OLYMPIA, Wash. - If Washington state lawmakers need some marching orders on this first day of the legislative session, there's a new survey from AARP Washington for them to consider. Just over 800 voters statewide were asked what approaches the Legislature and Governor Gregoire should take to close the $5.7 billion state budget gap. Forty-five percent said they support a combination of raising new revenue and trimming services. Another 32 percent think the state has cut enough, and needs to find ways to raise more money.
Doug Shadel, state director of AARP Washington, says people want their lawmakers to hash out compromises, rather than eliminate entire programs.
"Only 16 percent said that it should be an all-cuts budget. That's pretty remarkable, that people are saying, 'Let's be practical and take a pragmatic approach to fixing this problem.'"
The highest figure in the survey, 92 percent, was the number of people who said they are aware of the budget deficit in Washington. Shadel says education, transportation and programs that allow older people to remain in their homes also ranked high among the respondents as important state-funded services.
Shadel says almost 80 percent of those surveyed support legislators tapping at least one new funding source for state programs. More than half (54.6 percent) said at least two new sources should be used.
"It's really a myth that the voters are completely opposed, unilaterally, to any new revenue sources - I think that's what this poll shows. And the revenue source that had the most support was closing loopholes on certain businesses. I would expect that that is going to be on the table in the next session."
He says only about one-third (32 percent) of voters in the survey supported increasing the state sales tax. The interviews were done in late November and early December, and the survey has an error margin of 3.5 percent.
Released on Monday, Jan. 10, the full survey will be posted online at www.aarp.org/wa.