Seattle's News Elixir

According to a new Elway Poll released this morning, a majority of voters in Washington State say they would "certainly" or "probably" support the half-cent sales tax proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last week. However, fewer than half (45 percent) said they consider taxes in general "mostly a positive thing" because they improve residents' quality of life; nearly a third viewed taxes as "mostly a negative thing" because they take money out of people's pockets. And 41 percent of voters said the state legislature should focus on cutting spending over raising taxes, compared to 39 percent who supported “raising taxes to avoid more cuts in state programs.”

However, when asked which specific cuts they would make to avoid tax increases, voters overwhelmingly supported taxes to save nearly every program in Gregoire's all-cuts proposal. The only money-saving measure voters said they would eliminate was Gregoire's proposal to release some offenders from state prison early. Respondents said they'd raise taxes to fund Basic Health, school levy equalization, the Disability Lifeline, higher education, and the current length of the school year.

The survey, of 408 randomly chosen Washington State voters, has a margin of error of 5 percent.

Although the poll doesn't show overwhelming support for new taxes, it does represent a shift among voters in that direction: Although strong majorities have long agreed that raising taxes would be necessary (59 percent in 2010), only 26 percent of voters surveyed last year said they supported new taxes over spending cuts.

Over the years, the poll has found, voters have generally supported a mix of spending cuts, closing loopholes, and tax increases:
In a somewhat more specific question about how the legislature should proceed in this session, sur- vey respondents were no less divided: 19% said cut state spending as much as it takes. Do not raise any taxes or eliminate tax incentives; 25% said “close tax loopholes and cut spending as much as necessary. Do not raise taxes”; 26% said “cut spending as much as possible, then raise taxes and close loopholes [to] make up the balance”; 25% said “raise taxes and close loopholes. Do not cut programs.”

The widespread support for "

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