New poll: Too little spending on schools, not enough taxes from high earners

School buses (photo by Twix)

School buses (photo by Twix)

By Sam Smith

Almost two-thirds of Maryland residents (65%) feel Maryland spends “too little” on public schools despite a rising trend in state and local government education spending, a new Goucher College poll found.

The poll also found that  60% of Maryland residents feel that high-income earners don’t pay enough taxes, despite a state income tax increase in May that forces over 300,000 Marylanders earning six figures to pay a higher tax rate.

Nearly two-thirds of residents feel large businesses and corporations don’t pay enough in taxes, as well.  tax definition in dictionaryMeanwhile, 41% said that small businesses pay “too much” in taxes and another 41% feel small businesses pay a “fair share.”

The telephone survey was conducted by political science students at Goucher College in Towson. Unlike most election year polls, the Goucher poll surveyed all Marylanders, not just likely or registered voters.

The survey sampled 667 respondents representative of all Maryland regions, races and genders, recording a 3.79% pus or minus margin of error.  One third of the interviews were done by cell phone. The questions did not define “higher income people” or “large businesses and corporations”.

Education spending, taxes on the rise

Although two-thirds of the population feels that the state doesn’t spend enough in education, state and local governments in Maryland are estimated to spend $19.7 billion on education in fiscal year 2013, with the state spending $5.3 billion, according to

Annual education spending in Maryland has increased over $7 billion since 2002 when the combined education spending reached $12.5 billion, with the state accounting for $3.4 billion.

Despite only 23% of the residents thinking that high income earners pay a fair share of taxes, Maryland’s new tax rates have single-filers earning over  $100,000 and couples earning over $150,000 paying 5% plus a local piggyback tax of 1.2% to 3.2%. People earning over $250,000 are now paying a 5.75% rate plus the local income tax. The new tax system is estimated to increase revenue by over $260 million.

The Tax Foundation’s 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index lists Maryland as the 10th worst tax climate in the country. Maryland’s tax climate has improved modestly since 2011 when it ranked as the eighth worst tax environment. However, Maryland ranked as the sixth worst individual income tax climate in the nation.

Although Maryland ranked as the 15th best corporate tax climate, the state has lost businesses to neighboring Virginia, which has the sixth best corporate tax ranking.

Question 7 ads influence residents view on education

With a record-setting $65 million spent so far on advertising in the fight for Maryland’s gambling expansion ballot initiative, much attention is focused on Maryland’s Education Trust Fund this election as it will be a beneficiary of expanded gambling. Mileah Kromer, director of Goucher College’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, said due to the Question 7 advertising bombardment, people are led to believe that education is underfunded by the state.

“If you continually say that, people will look towards the education system and say ‘obviously, we need to fund it. It must be underfunded if the reason we want to pass this gambling initiative is to better fund education,’” Kromer said.

Proponents and opponents of Question 7 have advertised in every form and fashion this fall: television, radio, telephone, mailings, billboards and signs.  A second Goucher poll on perception of Maryland ballot questions shows that 87% of Maryland residents have seen the advertising on TV.

Kromer added that the results could have been affected by respondents evaluating their local school systems instead of state funding.

“Education is one of those things that people are so close to that any time you look at any sort of efficiency in your own school system the first thing that individuals think is why is it so poorly funded?” Kromer said.

Campaign rhetoric influences views on individual and business taxes

Kromer said that even though Maryland has increased taxes on the wealthy and has a less-than desirable tax climate, respondents saying that high income earners and businesses aren’t paying enough taxes could be simply repeating the campaign messages of Obama and Romney as they try to appeal to the middle class.

“It’s really people repeating the rhetoric they do hear in the campaigns.” Kromer said. “There is this focus on how we need to help out middle income people. Even among Romney and Obama, both talk about how they are not going to cut anymore taxes for the upper class.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Really

    So High income earners should pay all the taxes and the lazy a** pay none. And get welfare, health insurance and food stamps? Why work? So lets go back to the 1950 tax rate. The rate started at 20% for incomes of 0 to $4000 and the % would go up as the income went up. .. If you earn 32,000 a year your tax rate would be at 50%…….Everyone had skin in the game. As it stands now the top 20% pay 94% of the federal taxes. 40-60% pay none, get a refund or break even. So go back to the 50’s tax rate so the 80% can pay their fare share.

  2. Cindy Walsh

    Regarding taxes, 80% of Americans want income inequity reversed. That will take going back to the 1950s and 1960s when the top earners paid as much as 70-90% tax rate and corporations paid 40-60%. That is what people expect to see today. This window-dressing of a percentage point or two increase is ridiculous. If corporations and the rich want to move from Maryland because of high taxes then that will be a boon for the middle/lower class as we are rid of the people who control government and stop small business growth.

  3. Cindy Walsh

    We need to be clear where those education funds are going. The bulk are going to build global universities to make Maryland’s corporations leaders in global expansion. The innovation centers are turning public universities into corporate R and D and job training programs at taxpayer expense and free student labor. It is going towards funding committees and research in how to make Maryland’s K-12 the leanist, meanist, vocational pipeline for these job training programs.

    Oh, an classroom resources? Forget about it. The purpose is to make all this as cheap as possible….place children in front of computers in 500 student classes. This is supported by all Maryland incumbents. We need to vote the incumbents out of office to get back to building quality schools.

  4. abby_adams

    After looking at the questions posed by the poll, one could determine that phrasing played an important role in determining the outcome. Was the same attribute list, both positive & negative, applied to questions abt both candidates? Only positives are recorded for POTUS in the online report, while only negative responses are shown for Romney. As for the items those polled thought needed more tax $$, generic labels, i.e. education, shows the lack of knowledge abt how educational funds are distributed in MD with administrative costs eating up a majority of the funds. It would have been interesting to learn from what sources these 667 respondents received their info on taxes, the candidates & politics in general. IMHO those polled need to do some additional research before election day!

    • Dale McNamee


      I agree with you, especially about how education funds are distributed and about educational administrative costs…These “administrative costs” are the “fat” that can be cut without hurting “the children” !

      As for the “sources”…If the respondents are watching the so-called local news media that spends more time covering sports, “happy puppy” stories, while ignoring important news…Not to mention the “class envy” propaganda that masquerades as “objective ” reporting… They’ll never fathom how a “millionaires’ tax” now affects those making $ 100.000 – 999,999, soon to hit those who’ll be making under $100,000/yr.

      And they think that they won’t be affected !

      • Michael P

        I agree with you that the poll respondents are probably uninformed. I think people respond emotionally to funding for schools and teachers, which they assume are perpetually under-funded. The proponents of Ballot Measure 7 understand this and it’s obviously why their marketing focuses on education funding.

        People’s position on taxes is likewise emotional and gut level. News stories about Mitt Romney paying a 13% tax rate or General Electric and other corporations paying zero income taxes feeds the emotional response. Although the Occupy movement fizzled, its legacy is that the 1% vs 99% has become part of our political parlance along with the belief that wealthy people and corporations don’t pay their fair share. The truth depends on how one defines “fair.”

        • Dale McNamee

          Michael P,

          I agree with your analysis regarding the role of emotional manipulation in poll questions. I’m also aware that people confuse emotional “thinking” with rational thinking…

          And I’m getting awfully sick of the word “fair” as currently defined…

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