Poll shows people favor income tax over losing PFD

Published: Apr. 14, 2017 at 8:32 PM AKDT
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The legislature often conducts polling to find where the public stands on various issues.

Monte Bowen reports on a recent survey regarding the Alaska permanent fund.

With the state nearly $3 million in the hole as far as its budget is concerned, there have been a lot of proposals to use permanent fund money to reduce the deficit.

Senator Bill Wielechowski said he became aware of a comprehensive study done on the idea of using permanent fund money to ease the impact of the shortage of funds.

There was also a study on how the public’s opinion has evolved over the years on the idea of a state income tax.

“It seemed to me that it was something that the public would benefit from being aware of and the body would benefit of being aware of,” said Wielechowski.

He says the new poll is the most comprehensive one done in 33 years

“The polling is for Alaskans all over Alaska, it was done between the dates of march 22nd and april 2nd if this year, it statistically correlates with the number of republicans, democrats and independents in Alaska and has a margin error of 3.1 percent."

There is also a comparison shown between this poll and one done in 1984.

The first question was whether people would rather use the permanent fund or an income tax to cut the deficit.

“We had, back then, 33 years ago, 29 percent of Alaskans said let's keep the PFD and start to collect income tax, where as the 71 percent said no, let's end the PFD in order to avoid collecting income taxes,” explains pollster Paul Harstad.

The current survey shows a flip flop from that attitude.

“Now 64 percent majority say no I want to keep the PFD and collect income taxes, where as 71 percent has reduced to 36 percent who say let's end the PFD to avoid collecting income taxes,” said Harstad.

The poll did not run along any party lines.

"67 percent are Democrats, say keep the PFD and collect income tax; 69 percent of Independents; even among Republicans, a 58 percent majority say more it’s important that we keep the PFD and collect income taxes,” said Harstad.

Another part of the study asks if you would rather have half the amount of the PFD or increase a certain tax.

“Would you prefer to start an income tax for Alaska families collecting over $100,000 a year, or cut the normal yearly dividend amount in half? That's your choice. So we found 50 percent of Alaskans say, “Let's start that broader based income tax,” versus 37 percent who say, “No, I'd rather have the PFD."