Ticked Off Over Taxes

There's nothing politicians like to promise as much as a tax cut, but they shouldn't expect voters to believe them. A new BUSINESS WEEK/Harris Poll found that an overwhelming 87% gf respondents say they expect their taxes to increase during the next few years. Maybe that's why a tax-cut pledge packs little political punch: 53% said such a vow would have no impact on their vote for a candidate.

On the flip side, though, 54% said they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who intends to raise taxes. And small wonder: Fully 67% believe they have "reached the breaking point" on taxes. That's up from 65% in 1983 and the highest since Louis Harris & Associates began tracking the issue in 1969.

People don't think they're getting much for their money, either. Most Americans--69%--think their federal levies are too high considering what they get in exchange, while 67% feel the same way about state and local taxes. And, by a 2-to-1 margin, the public lacks confidence that money raised by past tax hikes was used efficiently.

But 73% say they'd be at least somewhat willing to accept higher taxes if they were certain that the money would be effectively spent. And they have some clear priorities for earmarked tax increases: Among those saying they'd be very willing to pay more for specific purposes, job creation ranked first, followed by education. Defense and welfare finished last.

Voters seem to see higher levies for health as inevitable. Eight in 10 say Bill Clinton's plan for health-care reform will require more taxes than currently proposed. And 66% say they are at least somewhat willing to pay more.