Poll: Don't make health, education cuts - tax drilling, voters say

Students will pay more in Gov. Corbett's budget, while gas drillers get a pass from taxes. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)
Students will pay more in Gov. Corbett's budget, while gas drillers get a pass from taxes. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer) (Joshua Mellman)
Posted: March 17, 2011

It hasn't gone unnoticed to Pennsylvanians that the natural-gas industry is drilling the Marcellus Shale without paying taxes, while Gov. Corbett has been drilling into education and Medicaid.

According to a Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College Poll, Pennsylvanians strongly oppose Corbett's education and Medicaid cuts. Meanwhile, they favor taxing the natural-gas industry, and smokeless tobacco and cigars, and selling the state-owned liquor stores to private companies.

Corbett proposed slicing $1 billion from education spending in his first budget address this month without even considering taxing the natural-gas industry, seemingly without care about the negative response that would follow.

An overwhelming 78 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed oppose that reduction of state funding to local school districts, while 67 percent oppose cutting state funding in half for the state's public universities. Seventy percent of Pennsylvanians oppose cuts to Medicaid.

To offset the huge cuts, almost two in three Pennsylvanians favor taxing companies that extract and sell natural gas, and placing new taxes on the sale of smokeless tobacco and cigars.

Residents also favor selling the state-owned liquor stores to private companies by 64 percent.

But about 70 percent of Pennsylvanians do not want increases in state income tax and sales tax to make up for the budget deficit.

"The governor and the Legislature will have a significant challenge ahead because on the one hand the residents of the state don't want to raise the necessary revenue to balance the budget," said Franklin & Marshall poll director Terry Madonna. "At the same time they oppose the Medicaid and education cuts the governor has proposed."

The poll may fall on deaf ears, though.

"While he was running for governor, Tom Corbett did not comment on polls," said Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley. "As governor, he will be governing on policy, not polls."

Although Corbett campaigned on a pledge against new taxes, and his first budget was pretty much what was expected, the number of people who rated him "strongly unfavorable" rose from 9 percent in October to 15 percent this month.

The survey was conducted by random-digit dialing with a cell-phone supplement, and respondents were randomly selected from within each household. The sample error for the survey is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

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