Poll: Louisiana voters oppose sales, income tax hikes but are more tolerant of increases on tobacco, alcohol

Louisiana voters don’t like the idea of sales tax or income tax hikes (or a slate of other proposals being floated ahead of the special legislative session), but they are more willing to go along with increased taxes on items like tobacco and alcohol, according to a new poll from Pennsylvania-based Harper Polling.

The poll was paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that opposes taxes, but Harper Polling is a nationally-recognized firm.

It’s the first public opinion test of a slate of proposals that Gov. John Bel Edwards has put forth for balancing the state budget, which is facing at least an $850 million shortfall in the current year and $2 billion shortfall in the budget that begins July 1. The state Legislature will begin a special session on Sunday to consider several tax measures, as well as spending cuts.

Edwards, who took office Jan. 11, will give a 10-minute, statewide televised speech tonight to try to gin up support for his tax proposals, which include a 1-cent sales tax hike. He says the revenue increases are needed to stave off drastic cuts to health care and higher education.

According to the findings of the Harper poll, about 46 respondents said that the taxes they pay right now are too high, while 47 percent said that their taxes are “about right” and 5 percent said that their taxes were too low.

The survey included 400 registered voters in Louisiana and was conducted by live operator interviews via landline and cell phones Feb. 5-8. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.

The poll prompted respondents with information about the budget deficit then asked about specific tax proposals.

On the sales tax hike, the question, while factual, wasn’t posed as a general up or down on increasing the sales tax. It focused on several negatives, noting that the increase would be 25 percent over the current rate and would make Louisiana’s sales tax the highest in the country. Prompted in that way, 78 percent of respondents said that they oppose the increase, while 14 percent said they support it.

Edwards, himself, has said that he sees the sales tax increase as necessary to bring in money immediately but he believes that it’s regressive and shouldn’t be seen as a long-term solution. “I don’t like it,” he told reporters and editors from The Advocate on Wednesday.

Other questions on the survey were broader tests of support or opposition to general increases in various taxes.

About 58 percent of respondents said that they support increases in the tobacco and alcohol taxes, while 36 percent said that they oppose increasing those taxes.

Edwards has called for a 22-cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax and has opened up the special session that begins Sunday to also include changes in the alcohol tax.

Other findings in the Harper poll indicate that a majority of the respondents were generally opposed to tax hikes:

  • 83 percent of respondents oppose an income tax increase on middle-class working families.
  • Respondents were split on whether short-term rentals like AirBnB should be taxed like hotels. 37 percent say they should be, while 47 percent say they should not.
  • 80 percent of respondents oppose any increase in taxes on cellphones or land lines.
  • 60 percent said they oppose Internet sales tax collections.
  • 59 percent said they oppose corporate income tax increases and the “elimination of other business tax credits.”

Phillip Joffrion, AFP’s Louisiana director, said he sees Edwards’ speech tonight as an indication that the governor also is aware how unpopular tax proposals are.

“A majority of Louisianans agree: more taxes are not the solution to our state’s budget crisis,” he said. “We know these tax increases would hurt our economy, and that’s why a vast majority of Louisianans oppose the governor’s proposals. The bottom line is our state cannot afford these tax proposals.”