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Tax Attitudes Surprise in 2016 Louisiana Survey

Sue Lincoln

We heard it repeatedly throughout the special session:

“I can assure you, nobody wants to raise revenue. Nobody wants to raise taxes.”

“No one wants higher taxes.”

“I’ve heard the speeches: ‘I’m not voting for any new taxes’.”

“Nobody wants to see their taxes increase.”

Most times those statements were followed by the word, “but”.

The new 2016 Louisiana Survey, done by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab shows that lawmakers should have been listening to what came after the word “but”.

“What we found is that if you ask people about taxes to support specific spending areas, there is much more support for raising revenue than is often believed,” Dr. Michael Henderson, who oversees research at the lab, says.

This year’s survey asked about K-12 education, higher education, road work, health care and public safety.

“We asked them what they thought about spending – should there be more or less spending on this. And if they said, ‘More,’ then we said, ‘Okay, well, where’s that money going to come from? Are you willing to pay higher taxes to support it?’ And what we found, particularly in the areas of education and transportation is about half of adult residents say they were actually willing to pay higher taxes.”

Henderson says the results of the 14th annual survey show there’s a trend toward fewer people feeling they pay too much in taxes.

“The share of people who say state sales taxes are too high – back in 2008 it was more than half. Now we’re down to a third. For income taxes it went from about half to now just one in four.”

Henderson says legislators might want to consider the survey results as they cast their votes in both the regular session, and any subsequent special session.

“I do think the lesson that lawmakers could draw from this is that people’s preferences for taxes and increased taxes has a lot to do with what they are connecting that to.”