Americans strongly oppose proposed gas tax hike

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 7, 2010 3:56pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans by a wide margin oppose a proposal to raise the U.S. gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon to help cut U.S. budget deficits and support cutting the federal work force, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.

The poll revealed mixed views on some of the recommendations made last week by President Barack Obama's bipartisan deficit commission. The commission put forward a number of tax and spending recommendations to cut $4 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years.

The least popular of the recommendations polled by Ipsos for Reuters was a proposal to raise gasoline taxes by 15 cents a gallon. The commission said the increase was needed to fully fund the trust fund that finances transportation projects. But 75 percent of Americans opposed the increase, the poll found.

The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, while taxes imposed by U.S. states average another 22 cents per gallon.

Seventy-one percent said they agreed with a commission proposal to cut the federal work force by 10 percent and reduce congressional and White House budgets. Sixty-one percent said they agreed with proposals to end federal grants to large- and medium-sized airports and to require airports to pay a greater share of the cost of aviation security.

The poll of 1,028 adults, including 802 registered voters, was taken Thursday through Sunday and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

The poll showed how difficult it will be to win public and congressional support for many of the recommendations made last week by the commission. The panel itself was not united on the plan. Eleven of the 18 members of the panel supported the package, while 7 opposed it.

RETIREMENT AGE

The poll showed that Americans are nearly split on the idea of gradually raising the retirement age to receive full Social Security benefits to 69 by 2075, a key part of the commission's proposal to shore up the retirement system that faces increasing financial strains from the aging post-World War Two baby boom generation. The retirement age already is being gradually raised from 65 to 67.

Only 47 percent of those polled said they agreed with the commission proposal on raising the retirement age, while 49 percent said they disagreed with it.

Fifty-five percent agreed with the panel's proposal to reduce Social Security benefits for higher-income retirees, while 57 percent said they agreed with the idea of giving retirees a choice of collecting half their benefits early and the other half at a later age.

A slight majority, 54 percent, said they disagreed with a proposal to stop taxing the overseas profits of U.S. multinational corporations. That proposal would be part of an overall tax reform recommended by the commission to streamline the complex U.S. tax code and help lower tax rates.

Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they agreed with the proposal to lower individual and corporate income tax rates.

Fifty-six percent agreed with a proposal to reduce overseas military bases and another cost-saving measure to integrate the children of military families into local schools near U.S. military bases and close schools on the bases.

Forty-nine percent said they agreed with a proposal to freeze Defense Department salaries and bonuses as well as noncombat military pay for three years. Forty-five percent said they disagreed with it and 7 percent said they were not sure.

On healthcare, about 45 percent said they agreed with the commission's proposal to phase out the tax-free status of employer-provided healthcare, while 43 percent disagreed and 12 percent said they were not sure.

(Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Will Dunham)

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