Goucher Poll on Kirwan: More Than Meets the Eye

Washington Post Poll Spells Trouble for Kirwan Funding

A Washington Post poll released today shows trouble for Maryland Democrats committed to fully funding the Kirwan Commission recommendations.

The WaPo/University of Maryland Poll, despite having flaws and the appearance of bias, has a couple of key points of information that are relevant to Democrats.

First, most Marylanders still aren’t aware the Kirwan Commission exists.

7. How much, if anything, have you heard or read about the Kirwan Commission on state education funding? Have you heard or read a lot, a little or nothing at all?

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A lot 7
A little 31
Nothing at All 62 

This is consistent with the Goucher Poll results released in September.

Despite Marylanders not knowing much about the Kirwan Commission, they seem to be on board with its findings to increase education spending by 22%:

8. The Kirwan Commission recommended major new programs aimed at improving Maryland’s public school system. This would require a 22 percent increase in state education spending over time. In general, would you support or oppose this proposal?

Support 69
Oppose 21
No opinion 9

Where the Democrats really get in trouble is on the next question. Questioners were asked if they would support a one-half-of-one percent increase in the income tax, which would average out to $400 in higher taxes each year.

9a. To fund these new education programs, would you support or oppose increasing the state income tax rate by half of a percentage point? For a
household with an income of eighty-thousand dollars, this would amount to 400 dollars more per year.

Support 45
Oppose 49
No opinion 6

It’s a fascinating juxtaposition and a reminder as to why polling should not dictate public policy. The same group of people who have no idea what the Kirwan Commission is both supports its recommendations to increase spending by 22% and oppose raising taxes by $400 a year to pay for it.

Let’s just say those two public policy priorities are in conflict with each other.

What’s wild about the poll however is the fact that the question and the way it’s presented grossly understates the amount of taxes that Marylanders would need to pay in order to fund this thing. As we have discussed time and time again, it’s going to cost well more than $6,000 per family every year to fully enact the Kirwan Commission recommendations and funding formulas. There is no situation where a $400 income tax hike is going to cover this bill. Nor will any of the other Democratic proposals like legalizing and taxing marijuana or sports betting be able to fully fund this, either.

The only way to fully fund Kirwan is to do all of those things, increase the sales tax, increase the income tax at a far higher rate than this poll supposes, and have local jurisdictions raise property and piggyback income taxes. All at the same time.

If Marylanders oppose the idea of an extra $400 in taxes every year, just wait until they learn how much they’re really going to have to pay to fund Kirwan. Which is why it’s not coincidental that Governor Larry Hogan is capitalizing on that mood:

It’s still early and a lot of things can change in three years. But one thing seems certain:  if Democrats really go through with this, if they really raise taxes in order to keep special interest groups happy by fulling funding Kirwan, there will be electoral hell to pay come 2022.



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