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2010: The Wages of Sin

If the state needs money to balance its budget, it should look first to sin taxes on gambling, alcohol and marijuana.

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If the state needs money to balance its budget, it should look first to sin taxes on gambling, alcohol and marijuana, according to a poll done for the Texas Lyceum.

The survey of 725 adult Texans also found most support enacting an Arizona-style immigration law in Texas and that immigration is now tied with economic matters on the list of Texans' concerns.

Fifty-five percent said they would support a Texas law mirroring the legislation passed in Arizona that enables "state agencies to enforce federal immigration laws, including asking about immigration status of anyone stopped for any offense." 

Immigration and border security combined as the most important issue for 25 percent of the respondents; an equal number listed the economy and unemployment/jobs as their top concerns. Only 4 percent put the state budget deficit on that list.

Asked about raising revenue to cover an expected shortfall in the coming state budget, 58 percent listed increased taxes on alcoholic beverages as their first or second choice, 54 percent listed taxes on casinos, and 30 percent listed taxes on marijuana. Casinos and marijuana are currently banned in the state; legalizing them was part of the question. Asked in detail about gaming, 29 percent said they would allow full-blown casino gambling, 21 percent would approve expansion of gambling in "existing or pre-approved locations," 23 percent would leave the state's gaming laws alone, and 22 percent would support a complete ban on gambling in Texas.

Only 4 percent would use all of the money in the state's Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget; 16 percent would use most of it; 43 percent "just a bit;" and 36 percent would leave that $9 billion pot of money alone. What about federal stimulus money, with strings attached? Overall opposition was 48 percent; overall approval was 42 percent.

More than half — 53 percent — said they'd leave public education alone if lawmakers cut state spending to balance the budget, and 63 percent said they'd protect health care for children.

Going into a redistricting year, voters' top concern (25 percent) was that lawmakers would draw new political lines to make sure they win. Another 22 percent fear minority groups will be under-represented; 19 percent are concerned traditional communities will be broken up for political ends, and 14 percent think the process will be too partisan.

The Texas Lyceum, a nonpartisan leadership group now in its 30th year, is releasing horse race numbers on political races on Wednesday, and survey results on federal issues on Thursday. The group plans to release full results and crosstabs on Thursday with the last piece of the poll.  The telephone survey was conducted September 22-30 and overseen by Daron Shaw of the University of Texas at Austin (one of the Trib's pollsters), and Amy Jasperson of the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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