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Oct. 22, 2012
HAYS A new statewide survey indicates that Kansans are concerned about the economy and are divided about Gov. Sam Brownback’s approach to improving it.
The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University questioned nearly 1,000 Kansans between late May and early September for its 2012 “Kansas Speaks” public opinion survey.
Nearly 70 percent said they were concerned that problems in the Kansas economy could threaten their welfare.
Slightly more than 40 percent said they were dissatisfied with Brownback’s handling of the economy. An almost equal number – 37 percent – said they were satisfied with the governor’s economic initiatives, but only 9.5 percent said they were “extremely satisfied.” The remainder – 22.4 percent – were neutral on the question.
Gary Brinker, director of the Docking Institute, said another survey finding suggested that Brownback’s push to reduce state income tax rates could be one of the factors driving some Kansans’ dissatisfaction with his approach.
“Our survey showed that well over 50 percent of our respondents want to raise taxes on large corporations and high-income earners and the governor and his allies in the Legislature recently did just the opposite and lowered taxes on those groups,” Brinker said.
A slight majority of respondents – 52.2 percent – said they preferred cutting property taxes rather than income and sales taxes. Only 34.7 percent favored a reduction in income taxes; 30 percent a reduction in the sales tax.
The income tax-cut bill that Brownback signed in May exempts from taxation nonwage income earned by the owners of nearly 200,000 businesses formed as limited liability and subchapter S corporations as well as sole proprietorships. It also reduces the state’s top income tax rate in 2013 to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. The rate paid by lower-income Kansans will go down to 3 percent from 3.5 percent.
The cuts are expected to reduce state revenues by between $4.5 billion and $4.7 billion over five years. Brownback has said he is confident the tax cuts will over time spur enough economic activity to make up for some of the lost revenue. But others fear the fall off in revenue will force spending reductions on education and social programs that may never be restored.
Perhaps connected to that concern, nearly 58 of those surveyed said they wanted to see funding for K-12 education increased. And almost half – 47 percent – favored increasing funding for social services.
Brinker said the desire for funding increases for education and social services was hard to square with the finding that about half of those surveyed also said overall spending by Kansas government should be decreased.
“It does suggest the public does need to be educated in order to logically and effectively contribute to policy decisions,” he said.
The survey results also showed widespread opposition to the Affordable Care Act. More than 60 percent of Kansans responding to the survey said the U.S. Supreme Court made the wrong decision by upholding the health reform law.
The survey didn’t contain questions designed to test Kansans’ knowledge of the reform law. But other surveys, including one done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that key parts of the law were poorly understood by many Americans.
The survey had a margin of error of 3.22 percent. It had a higher rate of response from white, non-Hispanic and older Kansas residents and therefore was biased toward their opinions, according to the survey report.
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