Utah’s budget surplus should be spent on education, poll finds

More than a third of Utahns say education should be the Utah Legislature’s top priority for an anticipated budget surplus, according to a new poll conducted for the Deseret News / Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.

Support for education was strongest among people aged 25 to 56, possibly because they are more likely to have school-aged children.

Meanwhile, 27% of those polled identified a tax cut as a priority, according to the results of the survey of 746 registered voters conducted Oct. 14-21 by public polling firm Dan Jones & Associates. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.54 percentage points for the full sample.

According to the survey results, a tax cut was more supported among people aged 18 to 24 and those aged 57 and over.

Moe Hickey, CEO of children’s advocacy organization Voices for Utah Children, said it was good news that just over a third of those polled preferred to invest more in education than other priorities .

“We believe that continued investment in education, including Kindergarten and Optional Enhanced Kindergarten, is a wise use of surplus funds. We are opposed to a tax cut at a time when we as a state have so many unmet needs. Recently, the Utah State Tax Commission and the Utah Foundation both released research showing that taxes in Utah are the lowest in 30 to 50 years following repeated rounds of tax cuts, ”Hickey said. .

Lawmakers must appropriate sufficient resources to ensure that Utah’s children receive “world-class education and health care as well as special support for children who need it most.” If we are to use tax policy, we advocate that we look at vehicles like the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit to help those who need it most, ”he said. declared.

The results of the survey suggest allocating funds to the infrastructures ranked above and allocating them more to social services. Seventeen percent of respondents chose infrastructure financing while only 12% identified social services.

Julie Stewart, associate professor at Honor College, Westminster College, said education funding levels go hand in hand with the well-being of a population.

“Whether it’s spending on early childhood education or spending in the K-6 system, in my mind we really get it wrong when we don’t prioritize these spending,” he said. she declared.

Spending on education “literally invests in people who will then be your citizens, workers and caregivers in future generations,” said Stewart.

When it comes to tax liability, the Utahns do not bear the same tax burden as residents of many other states, she said.

“Our overall tax rates, compared to other states, are extremely low,” said Stewart.

“Anyone who feels their tax debt is too heavy to live in this state should definitely travel more. “

People who have identified education, social services and infrastructure as areas that could use more funding “may have a better idea of ​​our needs,” she said.

Along partisan lines, support for a tax cut was significantly higher among Republicans at 31% than Democrats at 3%.

The reverse was true for allocating more funds to education, with 47% of respondents identifying themselves as Democrats supporting more funds for education, compared to 33% among Republicans.

Of those who identified themselves as “very conservative,” 47% supported a tax cut, and of those who described themselves as “very liberal,” 60% supported allocating the surplus to tax. ‘education.

Representative Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, said she was disappointed that social services were seen as a lower priority than infrastructure, especially given the challenges of so many Utahns who were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who need to work and want to work have been sidelined by a lack of affordable and quality child care, she said. Salaries for daycare educators have always lagged behind other jobs. It has become increasingly difficult to staff daycares as other companies have started offering workers $ 15 to $ 17 an hour as starting wages to help fill labor shortages. artwork.

Moss said she was “on the other end of the spectrum in my life,” with a 96-year-old mother in memory care in an assisted living facility.

Many of the facility’s workers are young, some of whom were trained as certified nursing assistants while still in high school.

“There’s a lot of turnover there. It is absolutely essential for them (facilities) to have these aids. I mean my mom can’t walk or take care of herself. They do a hard job and they are really nice to these old people, ”Moss said.

Moss, a retired teacher, said she was delighted that more than a third of those polled identified more funding for education as a priority, even though she wanted the support to be higher.

“I’m happy with that. It’s really good, ”Moss said.

“I wish it was more like 40%. “

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