As Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut lawmakers approached a tentative state budget agreement late yesterday, residents weighed in on potential new taxes and the Governor’s actions to date. A new poll by Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy, completed in partnership with the Hartford Courant between May 10 and May 23, involved phone and online contact with 1,000 Connecticut residents, most with strong opinions on taxes, potential new sources of revenue and the Governor’s commitment to address these polarizing issues.
Early scores on Lamont’s job performance just months into his first term are mixed. Two-fifths of Connecticut residents (40 percent) disapprove of the way he is handling his job as governor. Disapproval is highest among Republicans (64.1 percent) with 39.3 percent dissatisfaction among Democrats. Among the issues that residents believe that Governor Lamont is handling well are health-care, 29.6 percent, 29.5 percent approve of the way Lamont is handling public primary education, and 23.2 percent approve of the way he is managing the state budget deficit.
And in a sign that these are not partisan issues, 64.3 percent of unaffiliated residents currently disapprove of how Lamont is handling tolls, and 65 percent of unaffiliated residents disapprove of how he is handling taxes. Overall, 60 percent disapprove of his handling of tolls and 65 percent disapprove of his handling of taxes.
Although high levels of support exist for taxing higher earners as a means to address the state budget deficit, none of these proposed measures were included in the tentative budget agreement. Respondents signaled strong support (70.2 percent) for raising the state income tax on individuals earning $500,000 or couples earning $1 million. Additionally, two-thirds of residents (66.5 percent) reported they “strongly” (43.4 percent) or “somewhat” (23.1 percent) support the implementation of a 2 percent tax on the investment earnings of single filers earning $500,000 or more and couples earning $1 million or more. On the other side of the budget equation, 50.5 percent report they would prefer if the state worked to close the current budget deficit by reducing spending as opposed to raising taxes, which is only supported by 4.1 percent of those polled.
Regarding Lamont’s campaign promises, 84.5 percent of respondents reported it is important to them, as voters, that Governor Lamont keeps his promise that, if elected, he would not raise income or sales taxes. While state income tax levels remained unchanged for the time being, the tentative budget deal includes a new sales tax on digital downloads and cancels sales tax exemptions on a host of items. It also proposes to increase the business entity tax which mainly impact small business owners.
The poll also revealed that Connecticut residents continue to oppose electronic tolls on the state’s highways (58.8 percent). In addition, 51.3 percent of those who support tolls largely do so with the provision that money collected go into a transportation “lockbox” account to be used only for road and bridge improvements and infrastructure repairs, per a state referendum passed last year.
“Taxes and the high cost of living in Connecticut continue to dominate poll results,” said Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and director of Sacred Heart University’s Master of Public Administration program. “Respondents are looking for tax relief and are prepared to hold the new Governor’s feet to the fire regarding his campaign commitments to not raise income taxes or sales taxes to help solve Connecticut’s budget crisis. On the other hand, they recognize that Connecticut’s large budget deficit needs to be addressed. Ultimately,” she added, “we find ourselves in a proverbial ‘cake and eat it too’ situation – residents want the budget deficit to go away and quality of life to improve, but don’t want to see spending cuts in state services or new taxes affecting the general population. We can’t have it both ways. Obviously, something will have to give.”
GreatBlue conducted the Connecticut-specific scientific telephone survey on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 1,000 residents. Statistically, this sampling represents a margin for error of +/-3.02 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. This is the first poll presented under the new partnership with the Hartford Courant.
Sacred Heart’s Institute for Public Policy, which was established in 2017 in the College of Arts and Sciences, is aligned with the University’s new master of public administration program. In addition to hosting state-wide polls, the institute conducts public policy research, hosts public forums and workshops and serves as a public-policy learning incubator for students.
A PDF file of complete polling results is available at www.sacredheart.edu/pollresults.