PORTLAND – Mainers are rejecting temporary tax increases and fee increases to fill a projected budget gap that has ballooned to nearly $200 million, according to a poll released Monday.

The poll by Portland-based Market Decisions indicates eight out of 10 Mainers oppose temporary tax increases. Likewise, seven out of 10 Mainers want state lawmakers to impose cuts to bring the state budget in line, the poll said.

Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of respondents oppose fee increases and about half of respondents oppose broadening the tax base, the poll said.

‘Startling’

“It’s pretty startling, the level of oppostion to taxes,” Curtis Mildner, Market Decisions president, said Monday after releasing the poll in Augusta.

Mainers presented a united front with little differences based on education or income, the pollster said. Perhaps surprisingly, the support for spending cuts was roughly equal among government employees and those who work in the private sector, he said.

“It’s rare that we get data that’s this clear and unambigious,” he said.

Gov. John Baldacci looked briefly at the poll numbers before swearing in four new judges at the State House.

“The poll reinforces that we need to prioritize state spending,” he said. “The state budget is suffering under a slowing national economy, but so are families and businesses. We shouldn’t be adding to their burden at a time when they’re struggling to make ends meet.”

Warning

But Senate President Beth Edmonds, D-Freeport, warned of the consequences of making deep cuts in state services to make ends meet.

“The fabric of our communities would be weakened by cuts that would harm seniors, children, people with serious health problems, and victims of violence. They will cost communities more in the long run,” she said in a statement.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 25, when the budget gap totaled about $95 million.

Since then, the projected gap has doubled. The telephone poll of 400 Maine adults had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

The poll was funded by Market Decisions as part of its quarterly omnibus poll. This time, the poll focused mostly on the state budget.

Overall, a majority of Mainers reported that they were familiar with the state’s budget woes and they weren’t afraid to share their opinions.

“We’re at a unique time and place with the increased energy costs and strain on … household budgets,” Mildner said. “People are having a hard time even thinking about an increase in taxes.”


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