Texas Voters Agree on How to Reduce Federal Deficit by $55B

[CNN FILE] An exterior photograph of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
[CNN FILE] An exterior photograph of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON (WBAP/KLIF News) – Republicans and Democrats in Texas were asked to create their own federal budget, and the solution is better than what we’re seeing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“Voice of the People,” a Washington-based group, created a new “Citizen Cabinet” survey, which gave 416 Texas voters the opportunity to make their own FY 2016 budget. “We looked particularly at the area of agreement between the two parties,” said Steven Kull, president of Voice of the People and director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation.  “We found this area of convergence reduced the deficit by $55 billion.”

Click to hear WBAP/KLIF’s Chelsea Wade talk with Kull:

Click here to try the survey.

The report can be found here.

The questionnaire can be found here.

Press release from Voice of the People:

As the announcement of President Barack Obama’s FY2017 budget draws near, a new, national survey finds majorities of Texas Republicans and Democrats agreeing on cuts in spending and increases in revenues that would reduce the projected deficit by $55 billion – $3 billion more than the sample of the country as a whole. In the in-depth ‘Citizen Cabinet’ survey, respondents were presented the president’s FY 2016 budget and sources of general revenues, and then given the opportunity to propose their own federal budget. The probability-based online sample included nearly 7,000 registered voters, including 416 from Texas. The survey also contained subsamples for California, Florida, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma and Virginia. The results were released today by Voice Of the People.

“Many members of Congress are quick to blame the public when they fail to make hard choices,” said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation and the survey’s director. “However this in-depth survey shows that voters in both parties can make hard choices and that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground.”

Majorities in Texas converged on $7 billion in spending cuts including cuts to subsidies to agricultural corporations and military aid ($2 billion each), operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, aid to countries of strategic interest and the State Department ($1 billion each).

The biggest deficit reductions came from revenue increases totaling $48.3 billion.

  • Sixty-two percent approved of a 5 percent increase in income taxes on income over $200k including 51 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats, yielding $34.1 billion in deficit reduction.
  • Seventy-four percent approved of taxing carried interest like ordinary income – repealing the special tax treatment that has benefited hedge fund managers – including 68 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats. This would yield $1.8 billion.
  • Seventy-two percent approved of requiring large financial institutions (roughly the 100 largest firms) paying a fee of seven-tenths of a percent on their uninsured debt, including 67 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats, generating $6 billion.
  • Fifty-nine percent approved increasing the alcohol tax to 25 cents per ounce, including 55 percent of Republicans and 62 percent Democrats, yielding $6.4 billion.

An additional revenue increase totaling $9 billion was recommended by a majority of Democrats, and by half of Republicans – a tax on sugary drinks (56 percent overall; 64 percent of Democrats and 49% of Republicans).

While both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are planning for increases in spending on national defense, neither Democratic nor Republican voters favored such increases. The majority overall, including Democrats, reduced it $12 billion while Republicans made no change.

The survey was conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland and was fielded September 17 – December 14, 2015.

The Citizen Cabinet panel was drawn from Nielsen-Scarborough’s probability-based national panel, which was recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. Additional panelists were recruited by Communications for Research. The margin of error for the Texas subsample was +/- 4.8 percent. For the national sample, it was +/- 1.4 percent.

Unlike a standard poll, Citizen Cabinet surveys take respondents through an online process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ that gives respondents information and seeks to put them in the shoes of a policymaker. The content of the simulation was vetted for accuracy and balance by both minority and majority congressional staffers from the budget committees in the House and Senate.

In this simulation, a representative panel of 6,949 registered voters were presented the administration’s proposed 2016 discretionary budget (broken into 31 line items), and actual and proposed sources of federal general revenue and the projected deficit. They were given the opportunity to make changes to spending and revenues as they saw fit. A bubble followed them giving constant feedback about the effects of their changes on the projected budget deficit.

Changes proposed by the overall majority went much further than the areas of bipartisan convergence. The overall majority reduced the deficit by $252.6 billion, led by Democrats. In addition to cuts in defense spending and some small cuts in a number of other areas, majorities increased taxes by 10 percent on income over $1 million (53 percent), a financial transactions tax (55 percent), and a 5 percent increase in corporate taxes (51 percent) and an increase of the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends (60 percent).

The largest revenue increase came from a new tax on carbon dioxide emissions that has been developed by the Office of Management and Budget that would increase energy costs $5 a month for the average household and generate $100 billion in revenue. This plan was endorsed by 54 percent including a majority of Democrats (72 percent), but not Republicans (40 percent).

Though they were not asked to try to address the limits of the Budget Control Act (which triggers sequestration in the event of overages), changes endorsed by the overall majority would easily eliminate the $75 billion overage of the president’s proposed FY2016 budget, while the changes agreed on by majorities of both parties would eliminate most, but not all, of the sequester overages.

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