Poll: Many favor refund of budget surplus
RENO (AP) – Many Nevada taxpayers favor another rebate or tax cuts if an expected $521 million state budget surplus materializes next year, a newspaper poll found.
Instead of having lawmakers invest the surplus in education or transportation projects, 36 percent of the 600 likely voters surveyed for the Reno Gazette-Journal said they want any possible surplus refunded next year, and 15 percent said they want lower taxes to prevent future surpluses.
“Oh, definitely you have to return that, or they will just find some ways to spend it,” said Elena Brady, a Republican voter from Reno, said of the tax surplus and state legislators. “There’s no way they can keep it. That’s just hoarding money.”
Twenty-one percent of respondents in the poll, conducted May 12-15 by Maryland-based Research 2000, said they favored investing a surplus in education and 14 percent said they would fund a backlog of transportation projects.
Fourteen percent said they were unsure what to do. The poll had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Janice Flanagan, a Reno retiree and a Democratic voter, said the money would be better spent on education or other pressing needs facing the state.
“I don’t think there should be a refund,” Flanagan said. “It is so rare to get that little bit of money put together. I would rather see it go to full-time kindergarten.”
A legislative fiscal analysis sent to lawmakers last month projected a budget surplus as high as $521.5 million, attributed largely to higher than expected revenues to a spike gambling and sales taxes.
Last year, Gov. Kenny Guinn engineered a $300 million vehicle registration fee refund by threatening to veto a state budget if it didn’t include a tax rebate.
This year, legislative leaders said they were not convinced a refund would be best.
“Last time, there was a groundswell for a rebate and it was the political thing to do,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. “That’s not the case this time. We have serious needs that exist. Some of that surplus probably needs to be utilized.”
Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said lawmakers recognize that everyone likes getting a check in the mail.
But legislators also know constituents will be angry if there aren’t enough qualified teachers in classrooms and motorists encounter gridlock driving to and from work every day.
A year ago, 40 percent of Nevada residents surveyed for the Gazette-Journal said they wanted a tax rebate.
Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the 36 percent favoring a refund this year represented no mandate.
“I think the general population’s view is we need to be investing more in our state,” she said.
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