By Eric Blaisdell
BARRE – The results of the annual Doyle Poll are in, and if anything can be taken away from the non-scientific survey it’s this: no new taxes.
The latest version of the informal poll, which Sen. William Doyle, R-Washington, first started circulating in 1970, had 14 questions on it. The poll was distributed to 162 towns on Town Meeting Day and there were 11,000 returns.
Of the 14 questions, four asked about taxes in Vermont. A question asking if the state should have a payroll tax to reduce the cost of medicaid came back with 54 percent of those polled saying no, 22 percent said yes and 24 percent were unsure.
The House Health Care Committee in the Legislature approved a bill that included a 0.3 percent payroll tax earlier this month to help fund health care, but the House and Ways and Means Committee is considering a bill that would not include the payroll tax.
Last fall, a coalition of interest groups asked the Legislature to implement a carbon tax in an effort to reduce fossil fuel use and to help stem the tide of climate change. The Doyle Poll asked Vermonters if the state should have such a tax. The respondents voted 41 percent against it with 31 percent in favor and 28 percent unsure.
The Legislature has been discussing a tax on sugary drinks that would serve to help pay for health care and also curb obesity in the state. The results were close on this one, but respondents voted 48 percent against such a tax with 45 percent in favor of it and seven percent unsure.
The one tax question that got a positive response asked if Vermont should have a one-day sales tax holiday. Respondents voted 65 percent in favor of that, with 23 percent against and 12 percent unsure.
Water quality has been a big issue recently in the state, most notably the poor condition of Lake Champlain and Montpelier residents wanting to keep people out of Berlin Pond to preserve their drinking water. Voters were asked if water quality was a major issue in the state and 63 percent of respondents said it was, while 23 percent said no and 14 percent were unsure. Voters were also asked if Lake Champlain was as clear as they would like it to be and 69 percent of respondents said no, nine percent said yes and 21 percent were unsure.
School districts have been another major topic in the state, as officials are looking into school consolidation in an effort to save money with school budgets ever on the rise. The poll asked residents if Vermont has too many school districts. Respondents came back with 52 percent saying yes, 26 percent saying no and 21 percent being unsure.
Legalizing marijuana has been discussed this year, but the Legislature isn’t likely to take up the measure. Vermont decriminalized marijuana last year. When asked if the state should legalize pot, respondents voted 48 percent against it, 39 percent for it and 13 percent unsure.
Vermont has been in the national spotlight over the past year-plus due to Vermonters’ opiate use. Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State Address in 2014 to just that topic. When asked if residents were concerned about opiate use in Vermont, respondents voted yes by 87 percent, with 8 percent saying no and 5 percent were unsure.
Three of the poll’s questions dealt with the economy. When asked if natural gas should be an important part of the state’s economy, 49 percent of respondents said yes, while 26 percent said no and 25 percent were unsure.
Voters were also asked if statewide cellphone coverage and statewide broadband were important to Vermont’s economic future. Respondents voted 88 percent in favor, with 6 percent against it and 6 percent unsure.
When asked if Vermont is doing a good job of attracting jobs to the state, 64 percent of respondents said no, 14 percent said yes and 22 percent were unsure.
Speaking of doing a good job, voters were asked if Shumlin was doing just that.
Fifty seven percent of respondents said no, with 21 percent saying yes and 22 percent being unsure.
When asked if the state’s health care system is better than it was five years ago, respondents voted no by 42 percent, with 28 percent saying yes and 30 percent were unsure.
Rep. Samuel Young, D-Orleans-Caledonia, and Sen. Anthony Pollina, P-Washington, have both introduced bills that would make Vermont’s presidential primary the same day as New Hampshire’s.
Both bills are currently in Government Operations and aren’t expected to make it out of there this session. When asked if Vermont and New Hampshire should share primary days, 39 percent of respondents said no, with 28 percent saying yes and 33 percent were unsure.