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More Support for a Balanced Approach to State Shortfalls

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We hear a lot these days about public resentment of government.  But a new Idaho poll gives further evidence that, when confronted by the real impact of the record revenue losses that states and localities have suffered due to the recession, Americans favor a balanced approach that includes new revenues instead of just fewer public services.

Like other states, Idaho has experienced steep revenue declines in the past few years.  Last year, the governor and legislature responded by cutting services and not raising taxes.

But that policy had a cost.  The state cut K-12 education spending by 7.5 percent.  The state has also cut health care, services for seniors and people with disabilities, higher education, and its own workforce.  And another $182 million budget gap looms for the 2012 fiscal year.

In a new poll sponsored by a group of daily newspapers, while most Idahoans say it was right to rule out taxes last year, 48 percent support raising taxes to avoid additional education cuts next year; 38 percent were opposed.

Idaho’s far from alone.  In recent months, I’ve blogged about election results in Michigan and Arizona, where voters backed tax increases rather than deep service cuts.  And don’t forget the similar vote in Oregon earlier this year.  In 2008-2009, 33 states raised revenues to help balance their budgets.

The fact that people are willing to pay for services that meet important needs and invest in a better future isn’t such a “man-bites-dog” story after all.