Voters think tax swap is 'bad idea,' poll finds

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Jason Garcia and John Kennedy
Published  March 30, 2007


TALLAHASSEE -- A new Quinnipiac University poll has troubling news for House Speaker Marco Rubio and his push to swap property taxes for a higher sales tax.

By a 51 percent to 34 percent margin, voters say eliminating local property taxes and replacing them with any state tax is a "bad idea" in general. Voters oppose 48 percent to 44 percent the specific Rubio plan of eliminating property taxes on primary residences and replacing the revenue with a 2.5-cent sales-tax increase.

Still, 63 percent of voters agree with Rubio that the sales tax is more fair than the property tax.

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said it's not surprising that voters are giving mixed reviews to Rubio's property-tax overhaul.

"There's no clear direction here for policymakers," Brown said. "But I don't think that's terribly surprising. These are complicated issues that take legislators months to grapple with."

Voters are also wary of giving lawmakers any chance to raise taxes, he said.

"Voters are inherently distrustful of politicians who raise their taxes and to tell them they have to swap one for the other. The cynics among them will wonder: Will they really cut one, or will they just raise the other?" Brown said.

The poll also found Gov. Charlie Crist with a 73 percent approval rating, topping the 69 percent approval he got in the same survey in early February.

The survey of 1,061 Florida voters has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The poll shows better reception for Rubio's call to roll back property taxes to 2000-01 levels, which would require local governments to cut more than $5.5 billion in spending. Undermining the pushback by cities and counties, who warn of sharp local service cuts if taxes are reduced, 69 percent of voters say they support reducing local government to 2001 levels, compared with just 23 percent who oppose it.

And 49 percent of voters say they are willing to accept fewer government services for lower property taxes, compared with 40 percent who say they aren't.

"The people have told us they can live with less local government spending and reduced services," Rubio said in response to the poll. "The people say, 'If we have to pay a tax, the sales tax is a fairer tax than the property tax.' We are confident that when voters are given the chance to consider our plan on the ballot, they will support it."