By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Six months of gloom and doom by the Governor and his media allies has not swayed voters to support new taxes to deal with the supposed “crisis” in the General Fund. New polling commissioned by the Alabama Jobs Foundation was released on Wednesday showing that voters do not support higher taxes and this is true across all demographics: Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Whites, and Blacks.
The news is devastating for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R), and his latest plan to hike taxes on the people by as much as $500 million a year.
The polling by Target Point Consulting in Alexandria, Virginia, supports results in earlier polling commissioned by news outlets including the Alabama Political Reporter and Yellow Hammer News on the tax issue.
Most Republicans running for office in Alabama in 2014 or 2010 have, at some point, pledged not to raise taxes on the people of Alabama. The pollster asked likely voters: “In the last election, a number of elected officials in the state legislature promised during their campaigns that they would not raise taxes. Now a number of those legislators say they may vote to increase taxes to meet the demands of the state budget. Knowing that they are changing their position, how would this affect your vote for them in the next election? Would you say would vote FOR the candidates who vote FOR the tax increases or AGAINST the candidates who vote FOR tax increases?”
6 percent said they would “Definitely vote for” the tax pledge breaking candidate; 17 percent “Probably For”; 25 percent said they would vote “Probably Against”; 38 percent were “Definitely Against’; 12 percent did not know what they would do and 2 percent refused to answer the question. Breaking your no new taxes pledge helps with 23 percent of the voters and hurts with 63 percent of likely voters.
The poll made it very clear that the people surveyed do not want their representatives raising their taxes.
The pollster asked: “Governor Bentley has called the legislature into Special Session and the Governor is proposing the legislature into Special Session and the Governor is proposing the legislature raise taxes by a total of $310 million. The Governor says the tax increase is necessary in order to avoid drastic cuts in state services? Do you support or oppose the Governor’s proposal to raise taxes in order to avoid drastic cuts in state services?”
Only 12 percent said they “Strongly Support” the Bentley plan. Just 15 percent “Somewhat Support” the controversial tax increase plan. 15 percent “Somewhat Oppose” while an overwhelming 50 percent of the people surveyed answered they “Strongly Oppose” raising the tax burden on the people of the state. Five percent did not know what they think and one percent refused to answer the question.
66 percent of respondents oppose tax increases while just 28 percent think this manufactured budget crisis justifies higher taxes. This is uniform across demographics. 66 percent of Republicans oppose Bentley’s tax increases to just 27 percent in favor. 68 percent of independents oppose to just 24 percent in favor. 64 percent of Democrats oppose higher taxes; while only 33 percent are in favor. 72 percent of African American voters oppose the tax increases.
While the polling shows no support for raising taxes it did show that there is considerable support people support a vote on gambling and more specifically for the Marsh plan.
89 percent of voters said that they support the people voting on gambling versus letting the legislature or the governor decide the issue.
The pollster asked respondents about the Marsh plan: “The Alabama Legislature is considering a constitutional amendment that would do the following three things: Allow Los Vegas-style table gaming at the state’s four do tracks; Create an education lottery and provide college and technical school scholarships; AND Authorize the Governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and require them to pay fees for their casinos. Based on this description would you vote YES in favor of or vote NO against the constitutional amendment?”
46 percent answered that they would “Definitely vote Yes.” 19 percent said they would vote, ‘Yes, but could change their mind”; 4 percent “Lean Yes,” 0 percent “Lean No”; 8 percent “No” but could change mind,” 21 percent will “Definitely Vote No” and 1 percent don’t know how they will vote yet.
The pollster also asked about the Poarch Creek plan: “Another alternative proposal, which would avoid having a statewide vote on it, is with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that currently operates the only existing casinos in Alabama. They have proposed to make an upfront payment of 250 million dollars to the state of Alabama, along with additional smaller amounts of money in future years to help alleviate the budget shortfall. In exchange for this payment the state would grant the Poarch Band tribe a full monopoly on gaming in the state of Alabama, restricting gaming in Alabama only to current casinos operated by the State. Based on the description would you say you SUPPORT this proposal or would you OPPOSE this proposal to give the Poarch Creek Band a monopoly on casino gaming in exchange for an initial payment of 250 million dollars and eliminate a statewide vote on the Constitutional Amendment?”
19 percent say that they “Strongly Support” the Poarch Creek plan. 18 percent said they “Somewhat support” the plan; 3 percent “Lean Support”; 1 percent “Lean Oppose”; 15 percent “Somewhat Oppose”, 41 percent said they “Strongly Oppose”, and 3 percent said they don’t know.
If given a choice between the two gaming plans, 77 percent prefer the Marsh plan; while only ten percent prefer the Poarch Creek Plan. Nine percent responded that they can not support either plan; while three percent did not know and one percent declined to answer the question.
80 percent of the people of Alabama said that they support a lottery.
Alabama Jobs Foundation Executive Director Chip Hill said that this new polling data reinforces what they already believed. Hill thanked Senate President Del Marsh for being there for the press conference at the Harbert Center in Birmingham. Director Hill said that the Foundation had a new full page ad that began running this weekend.
Hill said that the Foundation was committed to find solution for the budget crisis in Alabama and that they believe that the Marsh Plan is the best option for Alabama. They also are recruiting more involvement from prominent business leaders to join the foundation.
The Executive Vice President at Brombergs Frank Bromberg III said that it was vitally important that on an issue like the lottery that the people of Alabama have the right to vote.
Bromberg said that over 80 percent of the people of Alabama supported the lottery and joked that the 10 or 11 percent that said “NO” didn’t understand the question. VP Bromberg said, I hope and pray that the legislature will go through with this suggestion. It is the right thing to do.
The President of the Alabama Jobs Foundation former Auburn Head Football Coach and Athletics Director Pat Dye said in a written statement, “These results simply confirm what I hear from Alabamians across the State. They are ready to vote on this issue once and for all.” The voters are clear about what they support: an education lottery and gaming that brings jobs, revenue and economic development to our State.
The President and Managing Partner of Target Point Consulting Michael Meyers said that his group telephoned 809 likely voters in Alabama. 34 percent of those were on cell phones and they used live operators to ask the questions. Meyers said that the poll has a good mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Meyers said that according to the survey there will be repercussions when they go back to their districts if legislators vote to raise taxes. Meyers said the majority of respondents reject the tribal plan. “These numbers are pretty compelling.”
Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said, “The voters of Alabama are speaking as load and clear as they can on this issue. They demand the right to vote on this issue. They support my lottery and gaming constitutional amendment by large numbers. And just as important they do not support raising taxes, period.”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked the voters rejected tax increases but did the poll look at budget cuts?
Meyers said, the survey asked respondents: Some legislators have proposed cutting state budgets 20 to 30 percent do you approve or disapprove of this proposal. 49 percent answered that they approve of the budget cuts. 37 percent are opposed. There is a lot of partisan differences in this. 60 percent of Republicans answered that they support budget cuts; while 57 percent said that they opposed cutting the budgets.
Sen. Marsh said that his plan is based on an Auburn University of Montgomery study that showed that the plan would create 11000 jobs. That is the same size as the auto industry in Alabama.
Senator Marsh said, “I don’t game. I don’t gamble. I have never bought a lottery ticket.” Marsh said that he see this as an economic development issue. “Gaming is another industry.”
Sen. Marsh warned, “This gaming piece of legislation will not solve this year’s budget situation.” It will take time to set this up. It will not solves this year’s budget problem, but it will solve future budget problems. The lottery portion will go to education and his current plan creates a scholarship program out of some of that money.
Sen. Marsh said that 66 percent of the people oppose new taxes and Governor Bentley proposed $700 million in new taxes. That has now fallen off to $500 million. It is hard to believe that is the solution.
Marsh said, “We will pass a budget. Will the governor sign it I don’t know.”
Senator Marsh said that as the Senate President Pro Tem, “I could probably force this issue to the floor,” but said that he won’t do that.
Marsh said that it makes sense to take up this plan after the budget has been passed.