Americans Want Higher Taxes on Pollution to Lower Other Taxes, According to New Survey
Washington, D.C. -- American voters want tax reform that shifts taxes away from payrolls and income and towards polluting energy sources such as coal, gasoline and diesel, according to a national survey released today. The telephone survey, commissioned by the national environmental organization Friends of the Earth, found that more than 2 out of 3 voters surveyed favored environmental tax shifting as a way to reform the U.S. tax system.
"Voters want a fairer tax system that discourages pollution, encourages energy efficiency and funds tax cuts on labor and income," said Brian Dunkiel, director of tax policy and staff attorney at Friends of the Earth.
"An environmental tax shift would simultaneously clean our environment, encourage a stronger economy and build more fairness into the tax system."
Voters Would Support Environmental Tax Shift
More than 70 percent of the respondents, representing a cross-section of Republican, Democrat and Independent voters, supported an increase in taxes on energy sources that pollute the environment, using those revenues to reduce existing taxes on payrolls and income. Respondents also supported a tax on air and water pollution, voicing slightly more support for this type of environmental "sin tax" than for taxes on cigarettes or liquor. The survey was conducted by International Communications Research of Media, PA, from May 29- June 2, 1998 among a sample of 500+ registered U.S. voters and has a +/- 4% margin of error.
"What these survey results show is that the sensibility of environmental tax shifting appeals to voters," said Dunkiel.
New Guidebook on Green Tax Reform Released
Friends of the Earth today also released a report, Citizens' Guide to Environmental Tax Shifting, which provides taxpayers with information about how the tax system can be harnessed to enhance both the economy and the environment. By using the principles of fair taxation established by Adam Smith and Henry George, the Citizens' Guide compares environmental tax shifting to other tax reform proposals such as a flat tax and national sales tax. To receive the report, call Friends of the Earth at 202-783-7400.
Businessperson and author Paul Hawken writes an introduction for the report in which he points out that basic economics tells us that the more something is taxed, the less we get of it. Yet, the majority of U.S. taxes fall on things Americans want to increase, such as individual income, payroll and corporate income.
A closer look shows that more than half of all tax revenues are raised with taxes on income either through the payroll tax or the individual income tax. In fact, the payroll tax is the fastest-growing of all major taxes.
According to government figures, between 1970 and 1992, the tax payment for a worker jumped from $374 to $5,329, an increase of 1,325 percent.
The report shows that environmental tax shifting has been gaining strength among opinion-makers and policy groups. For example, environmental tax shifting was endorsed in 1996 as a policy recommendation by the President's Council on Sustainable Development, which was signed by a diversity of parties including the leaders of Dow Chemical Company, Chevron, General Motors, Enron, AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club. Friends of the Earth is working with state and national legislators to develop tax reform that furthers environmental protections, energy efficiency, renewable forms of power and environmental technology.
"Tax shifting would be a win-win situation for the workforce and business. It cuts across political lines to make taxes work for all of us, helping to reduce cancer-causing toxic substances and clean up our rivers and streams," said Dunkiel.
Founded in 1969, Friends of the Earth is a national environmental advocacy organization with affiliates in 58 countries. For more information, contact Lynn Erskine 202-783-7400 x255.