SoonerPoll: Majority Of Oklahomans Support 'Step Up' Plan
OKLAHOMA CITY - State lawmakers could begin weighing in on one group's plan to fix the state budget by the end of the week, but state voters have already weighed in, showing strong support for the plan.
A poll conducted last week by SoonerPoll.com, on behalf of Step Up Oklahoma, the group of state business and civic leaders that proposed the revenue and reform plan, shows more than two-thirds of likely voters favor the plan.
"This plan was presented to voters in the poll, and I think it's being presented to legislators the same way," said SoonerPoll Founder and CEO Bill Shapard, "that this is to fix a crisis problem that we have."
The 'crisis' Shapard refers to is the state's ongoing budget shortfall.
It was the Legislature's failed effort to solve this crisis, during both regular and special sessions last year, that leaders of Step Up Oklahoma say spurred the group's formation and pushed them to come up with their solution.
Over a series of meetings this winter, the group agreed on a proposal, intended to address both short-term and long-term budgeting needs and including many of the same revenue-raising measures lawmakers had already considered.
Officials with Step Up Oklahoma say their proposal, which was strongly endorsed by Gov. Mary Fallin in her State of the State address this week, would bring in approximately $750 million in new revenue through increased taxes on: cigarettes, gasoline, energy production, and personal income. Step Up leaders say the injection of new dollars, in combination with reforms intended to make state government more efficient and accountable, would stabilize the state budget, not to mention pay for a much-needed $5,000 teacher pay raise.
"Oklahomans are optimistic people, and they want to change things for the better," said Shapard, "and they would not be supporting this plan at this type of level of support if they did not believe that."
Still, the level of support surprised even Shapard. Sixty-six percent of Republicans either "strongly" or "somewhat support" the Step Up plan, while 72 percent of Democrats support it. In total, including Independents, 69.2 percent of those polled support the plan, while 24.4 percent oppose it.
"I think that [support] is so high because I think people are hungry for a solution," Shapard commented.
Shapard says years of polling has shown him Oklahomans of all stripes typically are against raising taxes, but it's that need to solve the budget crisis, he believes, that has large majorities of Independents, Democrats, and Republicans all in favor now.
"Had I polled this six months to a year ago, I don't think I would have found that kind of support for it," Shapard stated. "I think I'm finding that support now because I think Oklahomans realize we have a real crisis on our hands."
You can see the entire poll, the questions, methodology and results on SoonerPoll.com.