CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia faces huge budget shortfalls, but a new poll says voters are willing to pay more taxes to maintain roads, schools and other state services.
Pollster Lisa Grove with Anzalone Liszt Grove Research said voters clearly told them that services have been cut enough. She said seven out of 10 are willing to see their taxes go up - even Republicans.
"We asked, 'Thinking about the taxes you pay, would you be willing or not willing to maintain funding for public schools, public safety, and aging roads and bridges - even if it meant raising your own taxes?' It's pretty poignant that 63 percent of Republicans say that they would be willing to pay more in taxes," she said.
Grove and ALG Research spoke to 600 registered voters by phone. The poll, done on behalf of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, found that voters think high-income households and corporations aren't paying their fair share of state taxes. They also said they believe the natural-gas industry should pay more, and they were favorable to higher taxes on sodas and other sugary drinks. On the other hand, Grove said, they were very much opposed to a couple of taxes that land especially hard on working families.
"Reinstating the retail sales tax on grocery items? Almost seven in 10 said no. Raise the sales tax by an additional penny? Almost six in 10 said no," she said. "When you look at the 'strongly opposed' column, they're vehement. Fifty-two percent said, 'Huh-uh, no way.' "
State Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said West Virginia faces a budget shortfall "north of $400 million" next year. Lawmakers will have to grapple with that during the next legislative session, after having great difficulty balancing this year's budget. Legislative leaders and incoming governor Jim Justice have offered few clues on the approach they might take.
More information on the state budget is online at wvpolicy.org.
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