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New Washington poll shows majority support for raising taxes on the wealthiest households

Results from a new GBAO poll reveal various sentiments surrounding COVID-19 and possible state responses to the economic crisis catalyzed by the pandemic.

The poll, commissioned by Civic Ventures and SEIU 775, asked respondents to give their opinion on various topics, most notably their opinion of potential economy recovery approaches in Washington State.

500 Washington voters were surveyed between April 16-19, 2020 via landline and cellphone. 

The poll results indicate that anxiety over falling ill with COVID-19 still abounds in Washington State. 75% of the respondents answered that they were at least “somewhat concerned” about getting sick or having close friends or family members get sick, including 49% who said they were “very concerned.”

81% of respondents over the age of 50, who are at a higher risk for severe illness, were particularly concerned about themselves or their loved ones becoming ill.

On questions related to the economy, respondents confirmed the story data has told in recent months regarding growing financial hardship.

56% of those in the workforce reported that they or someone in their household has been laid off or had their hours reduced. 17% of respondents reported to have been laid off themselves and 20% have had their hours or pay reduced. 

Respondents who said they thought the economy would recover before the end of the year were a clear minority at 21%.

As far as implications for the Legislature, the poll asked respondents what type of economic recovery proposals they would favor in the future.

63% of respondents favored an approach that would raise taxes on the wealthiest households. 60% approved of providing loans and grants to struggling businesses.

When asked about specific policies, 62% said they supported instituting a capital gains tax to “fund public services and provide support to families and businesses struggling due to coronavirus.” 

The notion that where a tax proposal comes from has implications for its level of support was also borne out in the results.

62% of respondents said they would support a proposal from Gov. Inslee to “raise taxes on the wealthiest households and companies in order to invest in public health, provide funds for workers and small businesses that are struggling, and make strategic cuts to some government programs.” 

When the question presents the proposal as the Legislature’s plan, without mentioning a political party, support grows to 68%.

On proposals that favor balancing the budget via broader cuts, 69% of respondents said they opposed making significant cuts to services like health care and education without raising taxes. Meanwhile, 27% said they supported this type of approach.

These poll results exist in the context of a bleak economic outlook in Washington State and around the country. 

According to a recent economic forecast released by the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council (ERFC), Washington’s unemployment rate reached 15.4% in April – up from 5.1% in March and 3.8% in February.

The ERFC expects an 11% decline in Washington’s employment this year. The unemployment rate has ballooned over the past few months with historic rapidity; February’s unemployment rate was an all-time low. 

David Schumacher, Director of the Washington Office of Financial Management (OFM) sent a memo to state agency directors earlier this month asking that they identify options for savings from their fiscal year 2021 operating budget appropriations.

The deadline for agencies to identify operating budget savings options is this Monday, June 1st. The Office of Financial Management set this deadline in accordance with the state’s effort to plan for the estimated $7 billion revenue shortfall brought about by pandemic.


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