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Poll: Cut Public Salaries, Not Public Services. Huh?

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Poll: Cut Public Salaries, Not Public Services. Huh?

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Women in Chicagoland will soon have a new place to go for stories, features and information on events when the online magazine Cheeky Chicago debuts on October 21.

A new poll conducted by the conservative Manhattan Institute and Illinois Policy Institute shows that Illinoisans don’t want to cut public services, but want to cut the pay of people who provide public services.

If your state and local government did not have enough money to pay the salaries and benefits of current public employees, would you be willing to have taxes raised so that the salaries and benefits could be paid at current levels?

    YES: 30%
    NO: 64%
    NOT SURE: 6%

If they did not have enough money to pay the salaries and benefits of current public employees, would you be willing to have social-service programs provided by your state cut so that the salaries and benefits could be paid at current levels?

    YES: 24%
    NO: 67%
    NOT SURE: 9%

That seems to be a contradictory question. To continue providing social service programs at their current level, it’s necessary to keep paying the people who provide those services at their current salaries. You lay people off or pay them less, the quality of service goes down. That’s basic economics.


The questions in the poll, though, were clearly written to gauge resentment against public employees and their unions. Among the other results:

  •   57 percent say they want to eliminate teacher tenure.
  •    68 percent favor moving public employees from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.
  •    62 percent say unions have not done their fair share to solve the budget crisis in Illinois.


On the other hand:

  •    47 percent take the side of AFSCME in its lawsuit over cancelled pay raises, versus 26   percent who favor the state.
  •   47 percent think public employees’ salaries are “too low” or “about right” versus 38 percent who think they’re too high.


Schoen, a former pollster for President Bill Clinton, wrote about his findings in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal:

The top priorities for resolving current fiscal issues are to cut government spending (47%) and to ask for greater sacrifice from current public employees, by having them contribute more towards their benefits (31%). By almost two-to-one, they think that current public employees should have to contribute more toward their pension benefits because of budget problems.
Further, by 48% to 40%, voters say that public employees’ salaries should be “frozen,” and they should be required to contribute more towards their benefits when states face the type of crises they are now facing. Close to two-thirds (64%) say they would not be willing to have their taxes raised as a means of keeping salaries and benefits of current employees at current levels.
However, there is a clear distinction in voters’ minds between what current public employees should be asked to contribute and what retired public employees should be asked to contribute. Sixty-nine percent say retirees should “not have to” contribute more towards their health-care benefits or take a reduced pension because of state and local government budget problems.

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Related Topics Pat Quinn, AFSCME, Polling
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