Louisianians are more likely to support a gasoline tax hike to pay for better roads and bridges than any other revenue raising measure for other services, LSU's annual Louisiana Survey 2017 shows.
Those surveyed by the Manship School of Mass Communication's Reily Center for Media and Public Affairs also said they would like to see the state spend more on primary education, higher education and health care, but are less willing to support changes to personal income tax or other revenue measures.
And in the end, 64 percent said they believe the state can spend less and provide the same amount of services.
"A higher gas tax is the clearest example of an area where people both want to see more investment and are willing to pay for it," said Michael Henderson, research director for the Public Policy Research Lab.
There was some willingness to support some other taxes, but barely a majority in most cases.
"There is real support for some more revenue, but the challenge is finding the right path," Henderson said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to lay out his preferred path Wednesday after postponing the roll out of his legislative agenda Monday for the session beginning April 10.
One of his proposals will certainly be an increase to the state's 16-cent-per gallon gasoline tax that has been in place for three decades.
"The bottom line is we have a $13 billion backlog (in deferred transportation infrastructure maintenance) and we're not going to be able to draw down our federal transportation trust fund dollars as soon as 2019 with our existing revenue," Edwards said in an interview with USA Today Network. "I will support any legislation this year consistent with the transportation task force recommendations."
Edwards hasn't yet said how much of a gas tax increase he will support, but it could almost double with a 15-cent hike.
Among the other findings of the LSU survey:
When it comes to dealing with budget shortfalls in general terms, 71 percent want lawmakers to take a combined approach of tax increases along with spending cuts. When pressed, however, these individuals tend to emphasize spending cuts more than tax increases – a result that stands in contrast to their fiscal preferences when asked about specific areas of spending.
Most residents (54 percent) think the state’s personal income tax is about right and nearly half (47 percent) think the state’s sales tax is about right. The share who believe the sales tax is too high and needs to be reduced rose 12 percentage points from a year ago to 44 percent.
Just 20 percent of residents know that Louisiana has a lower overall state and local tax burden than most other states. When informed of the relative tax burden, opinions that the state’s personal income tax and sales tax are too high drops by 7 and 9 points, respectively.
Fifty percent of residents support a proposal to lower the state’s personal income tax rates while expanding the tax base by limiting deductions. In contrast, 57 percent oppose a proposal to lower the state’s sales tax rate while expanding the base by applying it to certain purchases not currently subject to the tax.