Most Georgians don't want to see state budget cuts, according to a poll released Thursday, but critics say the language used in the survey was overly suggestive.
The survey conducted by the left-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute found that about half of Georgians are in favor of more state spending, and most do not support budget cuts.
A little more than 1,000 registered Georgia voters from across the state were polled by the nonprofit research organization.
More than 78 percent of Georgians oppose or strongly oppose budget cuts that affect public safety, health care and education funding, according to the poll results. Sixty-eight percent of voters said they could not support budget cuts if it caused layoffs.
Gov. Brian Kemp in August ordered state agencies to reduce budget spending by 4 percent in the 2020 fiscal year and 6 percent in 2021. Many agencies submitted their revised budgets that reflected hiring freezes, pay cuts and staffing reductions.
“Georgians want a budget that funds our shared priorities, and they understand that our state requires a balanced tax system to adequately fund the critical programs and services that families across our state depend on," Danny Kanso, tax and fiscal policy analyst at GBPI, said.
However, Corey Burres, spokesperson for the Georgia Center for Opportunity, said the verbiage used in the poll was meant to influence the responses.
"For instance, in question 2, the poll begins with 'Most of these budget cuts will affect agencies focused on public safety, health care and education,'" he said. "However, the governor exempted education and health care from those cuts, so it is a bit misleading to lead a poll question with this type of information."
Georgia’s proposed budget for 2020 is $27.5 billion. Analysts say the state’s budget has grown at the slowest rate in the nation since 2017.
Nearly 50 percent of Georgians polled said they would like the budget to be increased while 32 percent would like it to stay the same. Another 9.6 percent would like the budget to be reduced.
More than half of Georgians are in favor of charging sales taxes for services, online retailers and ride share apps to increase state spending on education and health care. About 77 percent of those polled said that taxes on tobacco should be increased to cover education and spending. Eighty percent believe the taxes on tobacco should be increased overall.
On the other hand, a majority of also want income tax cuts and tax credits.
Over eight in 10 Georgians support a Georgia Work Credit, which reduces income tax for low- and middle-income Georgians. Also, more Georgians opposed or strongly opposed a flat tax rate, which assesses the same income tax rate for every taxpayer regardless of income.
Some state lawmakers have proposed lowering Georgia’s top income tax rate, but those polled said they would oppose the move if it meant both cutting programs and finding new revenue sources.