New Poll: Too Little Spending on Schools, Not Enough Taxes from High Earners

By Sam Smith,

Almost two-thirds of Maryland residents (65%) feel Maryland spends “too little” on public schools despite a rising trend in state and local government education spending, a new Goucher College poll found.

The poll also found that 60% of Maryland residents feel that high-income earners don’t pay enough taxes, despite a state income tax increase in May that forces over 300,000 Marylanders earning six figures to pay a higher tax rate.

Nearly two-thirds of residents feel large businesses and corporations don’t pay enough in taxes, as well. Meanwhile, 41% said that small businesses pay “too much” in taxes and another 41% feel small businesses pay a “fair share.”

The telephone survey was conducted by political science students at Goucher College in Towson. Unlike most election year polls, the Goucher poll surveyed all Marylanders, not just likely or registered voters.

The survey sampled 667 respondents representative of all Maryland regions, races and genders, recording a 3.79% pus or minus margin of error. One third of the interviews were done by cell phone. The questions did not define “higher income people” or “large businesses and corporations”.

Education spending, taxes on the rise

Although two-thirds of the population feels that the state doesn’t spend enough in education, state and local governments in Maryland are estimated to spend $19.7 billion on education in fiscal year 2013, with the state spending $5.3 billion, according to

Annual education spending in Maryland has increased over $7 billion since 2002 when the combined education spending reached $12.5 billion, with the state accounting for $3.4 billion.

Despite only 23% of the residents thinking that high income earners pay a fair share of taxes, Maryland’s new tax rates have single-filers earning over $100,000 and couples earning over $150,000 paying 5% plus a local piggyback tax of 1.2% to 3.2%. People earning over $250,000 are now paying a 5.75% rate plus the local income tax. The new tax system is estimated to increase revenue by over $260 million.

The Tax Foundation’s 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index lists Maryland as the 10th worst tax climate in the country. Maryland’s tax climate has improved modestly since 2011 when it ranked as the eighth worst tax environment. However, Maryland ranked as the sixth worst individual income tax climate in the nation.

Although Maryland ranked as the 15th best corporate tax climate, the state has lost businesses to neighboring Virginia, which has the sixth best corporate tax ranking.

Question 7 ads influence residents view on education

With a record-setting $65 million spent so far on advertising in the fight for Maryland’s gambling expansion ballot initiative, much attention is focused on Maryland’s Education Trust Fund this election as it will be a beneficiary of expanded gambling. Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, said due to the Question 7 advertising bombardment, people are led to believe that education is underfunded by the state.

“If you continually say that, people will look towards the education system and say ‘obviously, we need to fund it. It must be underfunded if the reason we want to pass this gambling initiative is to better fund education,’” Kromer said.

Proponents and opponents of Question 7 have advertised in every form and fashion this fall: television, radio, telephone, mailings, billboards and signs. A second Goucher poll on perception of Maryland ballot questions shows that 87% of Maryland residents have seen the advertising on TV.

Kromer added that the results could have been affected by respondents evaluating their local school systems instead of state funding.

“Education is one of those things that people are so close to that any time you look at any sort of efficiency in your own school system the first thing that individuals think is why is it so poorly funded?” Kromer said.

Campaign rhetoric influences views on individual and business taxes

Kromer said that even though Maryland has increased taxes on the wealthy and has a less-than desirable tax climate, respondents saying that high income earners and businesses aren’t paying enough taxes could be simply repeating the campaign messages of Obama and Romney as they try to appeal to the middle class.

“It’s really people repeating the rhetoric they do hear in the campaigns.” Kromer said. “There is this focus on how we need to help out middle income people. Even among Romney and Obama, both talk about how they are not going to cut anymore taxes for the upper class.”

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