TRENTON -- The majority of New Jersey voters are willing to let the state's wealthiest residents pick up the tab for government worker pensions but don't want tax increases on lower-income residents, according to a new poll.
Seven in 10 Garden States voters polled by the Quinnipiac University Poll said they support raising taxes on people with annual income greater than $1 million, the so-called millionaire's tax, to shore up the seriously underfunded public pension system.
Twenty-seven percent of those polled were opposed, and of the Republicans polled, 55 percent were opposed.
Most recently, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) in 2015 wanted to institute the surcharge on 17,000 high-income households to bring in an extra $675 million for pensions in the next year's budget. Gov. Chris Christie's slashed the tax hike, which Democrats included in the budget they sent for him to sign.
Not surprisingly, 66 percent of voters would not support an across-the-board tax increase for pensions. Thirty percent were in favor. But asked another way, nearly half, 49 percent, agreed "New Jersey has an obligation to fix public employee pensions, even if it means raising taxes."
Slightly more than six in 10 Democrats agreed with that statement, while only about three in 10 Republicans did.
"There's one tax-raising plan that almost everyone likes -- the millionaire's tax," said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, who noted the poll didn't ask how many of those questioned were millionaires.
Every group -- no matter the age, education level, race or gender -- agreed that public workers should pay more for their health care to give state coffers some relief.
Sixty percent of everyone polled, including 67 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats, agreed on that point.
But a suggestion to cut pension benefits for new government employees was more controversial.
Republicans, 64 percent to 30 percent, favored reducing pension benefits for new state workers to balance the budget, while 24 percent of Democrats supported that idea and 68 percent were opposed.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,098 New Jersey voters from March 9-13. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.