While Oklahomans continue to wait for state lawmakers to approve a package of revenue-raising measures to fill a $215 million budget gap, many are not waiting to voice their opinions.
News 9 commissioned SoonerPoll.com to survey likely voters on various aspects of the budget proposals that have been circulating at the Capitol. The survey of 580 men and women, age 18 and over, was done by phone Thursday night and included Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Libertarians.
The diverse group was in general agreement on one thing -- that the Legislature is not doing a good job
Asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Oklahoma State Legislature, 66 percent said their opinion was either somewhat or very unfavorable. Twenty-six percent said they view the legislature somewhat or very favorably.
"It's probably just slightly higher than what we've seen in other political bodies, but that's really not saying all that much," said pollster Bill Shapard.
Shapard believes lawmakers' low favorability rating has been exacerbated recently by their failure, in the current special session, to agree on a budget fix.
One revenue-raising measure that's consistently been on the table is a 6-cent increase in the state tax on gasoline, from the current 16 cents a gallon to 22 cents.
Survey participants were asked if they supported or opposed this proposed hike. Forty-six percent said they supported it, either somewhat or strongly, while 53 percent opposed increasing the gas tax.
And Shapard says it's worth noting that 44 percent of those opposed 'strongly' oppose it.
"We have seen in prior polling that the gas tax is not popular at all, and so we found that again basically this time,” Shapard stated.
SoonerPoll.com also found that most likely voters feel the state already has enough funding. Asked if they "believe that the state government has enough funding to run our state properly" or that lawmakers should "raise taxes to fund existing state government agencies and programs," 49 percent responded "state government has enough funding." Thirty-three percent said legislators should raise taxes.
Shapard says this goes against the standard line being pushed at the Capitol, that more revenue is needed.
"As a pollster, I see time and time again," Shapard said, "that the voters come back and say, 'No, I think you got enough money, why don't try to make it work with what you got.'"
The poll also surveyed Oklahomans on their support for a proposed $1,000 pay raise for state employers, most of whom have not had any raise since 2006. 45 percent of respondents said they support such a raise, while 52 percent oppose it (41 percent 'strongly' oppose).
This runs contrary to the general support Oklahomans have expressed for giving teachers raises.
“This poll demonstrates that Oklahomans are frustrated by politicians who campaign as fiscal conservatives and then go to the capital to vote for $500 million in new taxes and more government," said John Tidwell, with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative, anti-tax advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers. "Let’s hope this poll serves as a wake-up call to the legislature, which needs to stop rummaging through our wallets and instead start to cut wasteful spending.”
See the complete poll results below: