By Maureen Hayden
Indianapolis — With just days to go before the deadline for a final budget bill, a new independent poll shows Republican Gov. Mike Pence may not have gotten much mileage for his travels around the state pitching his 10 percent tax cut plan.
The Howey Politics Indiana Poll released Tuesday shows just over 38 percent of Indiana voters support what the first-term governor declared his top legislative priority: a 10 percent reduction in the state’s income tax rate.
The poll showed about 33 percent support a scaled down version of the Pence plan: a 3 percent cut proposed by Senate budget makers, while 17 percent opted for neither.
“It shows that after months of pressing the issue, the new governor has found little political traction,” said Brian Howey, editor of Howey Politics Indiana.
The poll by Bellweather Research, a Republican polling firm in Washington, D.C., was conducted late last week, after the state’s fiscal analysts released the April budget forecast that projected the state would receive an additional $290 million in tax revenues over the next 27 months.
Pence has spent much of his first four months in office pressing for the tax cut. When he found little support for it among the Republican-controlled legislature, he took to the road to ask Hoosiers for their support.
Pence’s press secretary, Kara Brooks, said she’d seen the poll results, adding: “We don’t comment on polls.”
The Howey Politics Indiana Poll comes a week after the Americans for Prosperity Indiana chapter released its own poll that showed 46 percent of respondents favored Pence’s 10 percent tax cut. That poll was taken after the organization, headed by a former Pence aide, spent weeks on an advertising and marketing campaign in support of the Pence plan.
Though the poll questions were worded differently, the Howey poll reflects the public sentiment found last December in a poll done for Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Political Affairs, which found 64 percent favored investing the state’s budget surplus in education and job creation over tax cuts.
Still, the governor is likely to get some version of a tax cut in the final budget bill: GOP leaders in both the House and Senate have said the final bill will contain about $500 million in a mix of corporate, inheritance and income tax cuts.
The Howey poll had Hoosiers weigh in on a range of issues that have been in the news lately, from decriminalization of marijuana (which most support) to the expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act (which most oppose.)
One of the more surprising results, Howey said, came to the question: “Do you favor or oppose requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from?”
Given that 47 percent of poll respondents said they had a gun in their household, Howey expected to see some opposition, reflecting the National Rifle Association’s strong stance against the expanded gun background check bill that died last week in the Senate.
Instead, the poll found 83 percent said they supported expanded background checks, with 72 percent saying they “strongly favored” them. Howey called those results “shocking,” considering how Indiana is portrayed by both Democrat and Republican politicians as a “God, guns and guts” state.
Some other findings from the Howey poll of Hoosier voters:
• A majority (55 percent) oppose Democrat U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s decision to support gay marriage, after he’d publicly opposed it. The poll also showed the younger and more educated the voter, the more support voiced for Donnelly’s position.
• A majority (54 percent) support the Common Core State Standards for K-12 schools that are under fire from conservative legislators in the General Assembly. Respondents who consider themselves the “most conservative” voters showed a split: 40 percent support Common Core, while 40 percent opposed.
• Support for decriminalization of marijuana has increased since Pence called for tougher marijuana penalties than proposed in a pending criminal code reform bill. Now, 56 percent favor decriminalization, up two points from October when an earlier Howey poll asked the same question.
• On expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor under the federal Affordable Care Act, only 23 percent support that plan, while 48 percent support expanding the state’s current Healthy Indiana Plan (for families that can’t afford coverage.) Nineteen percent are opposed to any coverage expansion.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.