12/07/2005 - The latest IssuesPA/Pew Poll shows a continuing downward trend in Pennsylvanians’ satisfaction with the direction of their state over the past year. Only 44% describe themselves as satisfied compared to 50% one year earlier. Citizens’ declining faith in the state’s leadership and uneasiness with taxes highlights the concerns although respondents also cited other economic insecurity issues such as affording health care, financing retirement and paying energy costs.
Confidence in Public Officials Waning
While the percent of people expressing confidence in all officials in Pennsylvania is lower this year, the ratings of the legislature and its individual members showed the most significant declines. The recent controversy over the on/off pay raise for legislators surely is a prime factor for the turnaround. Attitudes changed little in interviews conducted after the repeal of the pay raise, suggesting that all is not forgiven.“There are no indications that the repeal has had any effect thus far in lifting the public mood. Those interviewed after November 16, when the repeal was enacted, are not any more positive about the direction of the state than those interviewed prior to that date,” said Larry Hugick, Chairman of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, who conducted the IssuesPA/Pew Poll.
The dissatisfaction with leadership isn’t limited to state and local officials. With the exception of Senator Specter, the confidence levels in President Bush, Senator Santorum and Representatives in Congress have declined since IssuesPA last asked this question in April of 2004.Taxation Is the Major Issue of ConcernOne year ago, state residents mentioned jobs most often when asked to name the single most important problem facing the Keystone state. In fall of 2005, however, Pennsylvanians put taxes ahead of jobs by a margin of 23% to 17%. Property taxes are of particular concern. About seven in 10 state residents think the taxes individuals pay in Pennsylvania are too high, up from 64% in December 2004 and 59% in September 2003. “The increase in anti-tax sentiment over the past year at the state and local level would seem almost entirely due to dissatisfaction with the local property tax, which has historically been viewed as the most onerous form of taxation” said Steven T. Wray, IssuesPA Project Director.Although taxing gambling revenues is still the most popular source of revenue to replace property taxes, fully 69% of those polled demonstrate a willingness to look at tax alternatives – they just don’t agree on which alternative is best. The least of the evils appears to be expanding the sales tax base, but that option is just marginally more popular than raising the state personal income tax or increasing the local wage tax. An interesting fact: people 65 years old and older supported raising the state income tax and the local wage tax in only slightly larger percentages than younger people, even though most retirement income is exempt from those taxes and property taxes are the largest part of their state and local tax bill.