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Good Sense at the Grass Roots By G. K. Sprinkle PERCENT WILLING TO PAY ADDITIONAL TAXES FOR SERVICES FOR: 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 % PERCENT HUMAN SERVICES CHILD ABUSE CRIME PROTECTION PUBLIC EDUCATION CRIME VICTIMS POOR UNEMPLOYED NO SERVICES s.’ 54.3 48.5 35.7 1 2.6 76.2 72.5 71.9 69.5 /N HIS STATE of the State message to the legislature on February 4, Governor Bill Clements declared, “I can tell you, Grassroots Texans do not want increased taxes.” When the people of Texas are told they need more taxes to run the state, according to Clements, they say ” ‘no,’ a thousand times ‘no.’ ” A telephone poll by the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin of 673 eligible Texas voters last November tells a different story. The results indicate that Texans want more services, and are willing to pay more taxes to get them. The people surveyed wanted more funding for programs that provided child abuse prevention and services, crime victims’ assistance, crime protection, public education, and aid to the elderly and disabled. A surprising 48.5 percent were even willing to pay more taxes to help the poor. In fact, only 2.6 percent of those polled were unwilling to fund any of the services on the survey. The programs were not equally supported an indication of the survey’s validity. “They were making fine distinctions between options,” according to Dr. Laura Lein, one of the researchers. Whereas the elderly and disabled, child abuse programs, and crime protection got over 70 percent support and public education got 69.5 percent, programs like crime victims’ assist got only 54.3 percent and services for the unemployed got a stingy 35.7 percent. “The thoughtfulness with which they answered the questions was unexpected,” said Dr. Susan Hadden. “One of the interviewers talked with a man who called himself a conservative, and said he would probably answer no to every question. Yet, he considered each carefully and made comments that reflected thought. We got a similar, but opposite, response from a black woman in the study.” The question of services to the unemployed and poor showed large differences by race. While more Anglos thought there were enough services for the unemployed \(over 40 percent G. K. Sprinkle is a freelance writer in Austin. and over 70 percent of blacks said more services were necessary. There was a similar difference in those who thought poor people need more services. Only 38 percent of Anglos supported more services for the poor, while 77 percent of blacks and 53 percent of Hispanics ‘ wanted them. This is unsurprising considering that over a third of blacks and Hispanics live in poverty while only ten percent of Anglos do. Even though people supported increased taxes, most wanted someone else to pay them. Over a third picked a state lottery, and almost a fifth wanted ten percent suggested either a corporate income tax the two best ways of raising the necessary funds. ADVOCATES FOR “tort reform” to help the insurance industry might take some com fort in the survey results as well. Close to 70 percent of the people want a cap on damage awards, limits on pain and suffering awards, and state action against frivolous suits. Over 80 percent want a cap on lawyers’ fees. At the same time, more than 70 percent want more control over insurance rates. According to Carol Barger of Consumer’s Union, the response on this issue does not accurately reflect people’s opinion on changes to the tort system because the question’s wording did not get at that issue. The question was: “There have been several proposals for the control of liability insurance rates. Should the state control liability insurance rates or not by:” \(and then each the results show public support for controlling liability insurance rates, not changes in tort law. Barger said that if the question asked people whether a person injured through negligence should have access to the courts, “the responses would have been overwhelmingly in support of the current law.” The survey asked questions about public policy issues the legislature is expected to consider this session, including one on comparable worth. Legislation by Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, DAustin, and Rep. Ernestine Glossbrenner, D-Alice, calling for a study of state pay scales, will be filed again this session. This legislation was targeted for defeat by the conservative Eagle Forum in 1985. Rep. Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, who received an avalanche of negative opinions on the bill, asked, “Why is there such opposition to this idea?” Perhaps there isn’t a lot of opposition to comparable worth. The survey results showed 73.5 percent of Texans support comparable worth legislation. The wording of the question used the term itself and then defined it. “Does Texas need or not need ‘comparable worth’ legislation to guarantee that men and women will receive equal pay for 10 FEBRUARY 20, 1987