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Elway Poll finds education a top priority, with voters open to taxes to fund it

by caprecord

A new Elway Poll shows that voters think education is the most important legislative issue this year, replacing the economy as the top priority for the first time in seven years. To pay for education, a majority of voters are willing to set aside some mandates.

Lawmakers are facing a $2 billion budget gap and an order from the state Supreme Court to fully fund basic education. They were also handed a $2 billion dollar mandate from voters to reduce class sizes with the passage of Initiative 1351 in November.

“Budget writing comes down to cutting programs and/or raising taxes,” wrote pollster Stuart Elway. “As usual, most voters don’t want to do either. To be fair to the voters, most legislators probably don’t want to do either. The essence of public opinion was probably captured in response to a question about how to deal with the education mandates.”

“Two-thirds of respondents said an acceptable solution would be ‘Doing as much as possible to fund education and reduce class sizes without raising taxes and without deep cuts to other programs — even if that means we do not fully implement the education mandates,”‘ Elway said.

Voters appear split on raising taxes to fund education mandates — 48 percent found the idea acceptable, while 49 percent were opposed.

Specific taxes found some support, however. Seventy-seven percent of respondents approve of higher cigarette taxes as proposed in Gov. Jay Inslee‘s budget, and 71 percent say a new carbon tax on industries could be an acceptable part of the solution.

Capital gains taxes and a tax on bottled water are less popular, with 57 and 56 percent of respondents in favor.