tax increases

Polling numbers released Tuesday show voter support for two of the tax-increase measures being championed by Republican leaders as a way to raise Oklahoma state revenues.

Released as part of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates’ Sooner Survey, the findings lay a potential blueprint for how Gov. Mary Fallin, House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) may seek to balance the state budget after candidate filing for the 2016 elections concludes Friday.

Filing opened today with dozens of incumbents and challengers throwing their hats in the ring by noon. (You can refresh this link to keep tabs on who files.)

Gov. Fallin noted candidly to Sean Murphy of the Associated Press that votes in the Legislature about tax increases are being delayed until after candidate filing ends:

“I think there are some members who are waiting to see if they draw an opponent during filing in April,” Fallin said when asked about ongoing negotiations with the House and Senate on the budget. “They’re slow playing things.”

Soon, however, talk will have to lead to action, and the polling numbers released Tuesday by Pat McFerron in his Sooner Survey show legislative leaders have public support on at least three revenue-related actions.

First, raising the tobacco tax — which is listed as a key element to funding a proposed “Medicaid rebalancing” — has 74 percent support, according to the poll.

As another key element to that proposal, 55 percent of respondents supported, “Accepting available federal funds for expanding Insure Oklahoma and defraying state costs for inmate health care and mental health services.” While that’s a fancy way of saying, “accept a version of Medicaid expansion,” the plurality of public support could be enough to provide legislators cover for supporting the major health care-stabilization package.

Third, collecting sales tax on internet purchases received 55 percent support from poll respondents. The governor, and to a lesser extent, the Legislature, has advocated a deep sales tax-code rewrite that would raise substantial revenue by taxing things currently exempt from the state sales tax.

The fourth revenue proposal tested in the poll, however, did not receive majority support. Increasing the tax on gasoline was only viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents. It would be interesting to see what people support more: increasing the gasoline tax or increasing the gross production tax, but that would have to be in another poll for another time.

The full results can be seen in PDF form below.

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