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Poll finds no love for taxes, politicians who raise them
By Dan Carden | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/9/2009 12:04 AM

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Questions, questions

Here are the tax-related questions that were asked in a February statewide poll of 644 likely voters, by Zogby International for two Illinois insurance trade groups.

If taxes must be raised to help control the state government's estimated $9 billion budget deficit, which tax increase plan would you support?

Increase the state income tax: 25.2 percent

Expand the state's sales tax to include a new tax on services: 13.4 percent

Neither/other plan: 55.2 percent

Not sure: 6.2 percent

Would you support or oppose the Illinois government raising the gasoline tax between 8 and 16 cents per gallon in order to raise money to pay for improvements to roads, bridges and other public works programs in Illinois?

Support: 27.3

Oppose: 63.3

Not sure: 9.4

If you knew a member of the Illinois General Assembly voted to increase taxes, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for them on Election Day, or would it make no difference?

Much more likely: 1.9 percent

Somewhat more likely: 3.4 percent

Somewhat less likely: 15.5 percent

Much less likely: 37.8 percent

No difference: 32.2 percent

Not sure: 9.2 percent

Source: Zogby International Feb. 20-23 poll of 644 likely Illinois voters commissioned by the Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois and the Illinois Insurance Association.

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois voters largely oppose raising taxes to balance the state's budget or improve roads and say they will vote out lawmakers who support tax hikes, a newly released poll finds.

One quarter of those polled said they would support raising the state's 3 percent income tax to help close an estimated $9 billion budget hole. Another 13 percent favor applying the sales tax to services, such as haircuts or auto repair, that are not taxed now.

But the majority - 55 percent - were opposed to any increase in those taxes to balance the state's budget. Income and sales taxes account for more than 60 percent of state revenue.

Illinoisans also oppose a gas tax increase to pay for road improvements. Only 27 percent favored a gas tax hike, while 63 percent oppose the measure. One downstate lawmaker is pushing an 8- to 16-cent increase in the gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The poll of 644 likely voters, conducted Feb. 20-23 by Zogby International for two Illinois insurance trade groups, has a margin of error of 3.9 percent. Full poll results, including data on potential 2010 election matchups, are to be released today, but the Daily Herald obtained a copy of the tax questions early.

The poll results come nine days before Gov. Pat Quinn releases his state budget proposal. In February, Quinn said he was "skeptical" about raising gas taxes because "it's not based on ability to pay." That seems to signal Quinn may be more open to an income tax increase along with spending cuts to balance the budget.

State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat involved in budget negotiations, said everything is on the table at this point, including a potential 2-percentage point income tax increase to raise roughly $7 billion.

Trotter said one idea is to create accompanying tax credits so those on the lower end of the income spectrum see no increase. That would have the effect of making Illinois' tax policy progressive - higher taxes for higher incomes - without opening up the state Constitution, which requires a flat rate.

Trotter noted nothing is final as everyone awaits Quinn's recommendations. "All this is just discussion," he said.

But lawmakers who vote for a tax increase could face retribution on Election Day, according to the poll.

A majority of those polled said they would be somewhat or much less likely to vote for a legislator who raised taxes, although 32 percent said it would make no difference.

At the same time, nearly 70 percent said they would vote against a lawmaker who voted for regulations that eliminated jobs for Illinois workers.