Oh, What Do We Know?

And now, in the category of "oh, what do the people who actually pay taxes to support our elected officials know?" comes some insight into how PA voters would balance the state budget.

This is from data deep inside last week's Franklin & Marshall College Poll that mainly focused on Santorum, Romney and Obama.

What this other data shows is statewide voters' views on key issues, and a slight shift in some of those views compared to a year ago.

You can read the entire poll here.

These highlights (on page 14 of the poll) include: an expanding belief that the state should tax companies that extract and sell natural gas: a year ago, 44 percent agreed that's the road to travel; this year, a clear majority, 55 percent, "strongly favor" such a tax rather than the complex impact fee our Legislature adopted and our governor signed into law.

Similarly, a year ago, 53 percent of voters said the state should tax smokeless tobacco and cigars (we're the only state that doesn't); this year that number jumped to 62 percent.

In our Legislature there are no serious efforts to enact either tax. And, remember Gov. Corbett has pledged no new taxes.

These two items -- tobacco and natural gas taxes -- are the ONLY items in a list of 14 options related to state budget and finance issues that a majority "strongly favor." And they, of course, have no shot of happening.

Yet what is proposed in the pending budget due July 1 is further cuts in assistance to the poor and large cuts in money to state-owned and state-related universities.

How do we feel about that? The poll says only 11 percent "strongly favor" reducing aid to the poor, and only 11 percent "strongly favor" cutting higher education. The latter is down from last year's 12 percent.

Other options "strongly" favored by only 10 percent or less include increasing the income tax, increasing the sales taxes and cutting funds to local school districts.

Now, I understand, the argument that the state has no money, still suffers from the lingering effects of recession and is run by a governor and Legislature commited to less spending and smaller government.

But the Department of Revenue yesterday reported state tax collection is up, and the Department of Labor & Industry yesterday reported the state's unemployment rate is down:

"Pennsylvania collected $1.7 billion in General Fund revenue in February, which was $15.6 million, or 0.9 percent, more than anticipated."

"Pennsylvania's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in January, down from 7.7 percent in December 2011...and has been below the U.S. rate for 45 consecutive months."

But, hey, what do we know? Other than the fact that elections matter.