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A Balanced Budget Or Bust


News: Analysis & Commentary: BW/HARRIS EXECUTIVE POLL

A BALANCED BUDGET OR BUST

FULL STEAM AHEAD

American business has spoken: Balance the federal budget, even if it means giving up corporate subsidies. That's the message in a new BUSINESS WEEK/Harris Executive Poll of 408 senior executives. A decisive 57% of corporate leaders said balancing the budget was a "top priority" that will only happen by setting a strict deadline. Only 23% felt such a step might harm the economy.

Given a choice between balancing the government's books or slashing taxes, 79% of executives opted for budget balance. Yet few thought it would actually happen: Asked if Uncle Sam's ledgers would be balanced by 2002, 86% said no.

Republicans and Democrats are arguing over how to balance the federal budget. Which of the following statements comes closest to your point of view?

a. Balancing the budget is a top priority that will only

happen by setting a strict deadline 57%

b. Balancing the budget is a worthwhile goal, but drastic cuts in federal spending could jeopardize the economy 23%

c. The most important goal should not be balancing the budget, but rather setting different spending priorities 20%

d. Not sure/don't know 0%

SAYING YES TO SACRIFICE

Some Republicans say that the drive to balance the budget by 2002 will require most, if not all, business subsidies to be eliminated. Considering your specific industry, are you willing to forgo special tax incentives or spending programs for the sake of budgetary discipline, or not?*

a. Willing to forgo tax incentives 57%

b. Willing to forgo spending programs 56%

c. Not willing to forgo anything 10%

d. Depends on the circumstances 7%

e. Not sure/don't know 6%

NO SACRED COWS

I'm going to read you a list of business subsidies or incentives that might be eliminated in order to balance the budget. Should each of the following be eliminated or not in order to help balance the federal budget?

SHOULD NOT SURE/

SHOULD NOT DON'T KNOW

1. Farm subsidies 83% 13% 4%

2. Incentives for energy development

and efficiency 68% 27% 5%

3. Federal loan guarantees 65% .29% 6%

4. Export-promotion programs 59% 34% 7%

5. Research and development support

for emerging high-tech industries 51% 45% 4%

6. Small-business grants and loans 49% 47% 4%

AXING AGENCIES

Supporters of a balanced budget are proposing to eliminate some federal agencies. Do you favor or oppose eliminating:

NOT SURE/

FAVOR OPPOSE DON'T KNOW

1. Energy Dept. 71% 24% 5%

2. Housing & Urban

Development Dept. 69% 27% 4%

NOT SURE/

FAVOR OPPOSE DON'T KNOW

3. Commerce Dept. 63% 33% 4%

4. Education Dept. 52% 46% 2%

* Respondents could pick more than one answer

READ OUR LIPS

Separately, GOP spending proposals would balance the budget by relying exclusively on spending reductions. As a last resort, would you favor or oppose modest tax increases to help balance the budget by 2002?

a. Favor modest tax increases 39%

b. Oppose modest tax increases 57%

c. Not sure/don't know 4%

TOP OF THE AGENDA

Which of these issues is THE most important to American business?

1. Balancing the federal budget 31%

2. Improving the U.S. educational system 28%

3. Helping to make U.S. companies more

competitive globally 17%

4. Cutting taxes 9%

5. Fighting crime and drugs 6%

6. Reforming the welfare system 5%

7. Providing guaranteed health care for all Americans 1%

8. Reforming campaign finance laws 0%

9. Not sure/don't know 3%

NO TIME FOR TAX CUTS

Which do you think is more important--balancing the federal budget or cutting taxes for business and individuals?

a. Balancing the federal budget 79%

b. Cutting taxes for business and individuals 19%

c. Not sure/don't know 2%

YE OF LITTLE FAITH

All in all, do you think the federal budget will be balanced by 2002 or not?

a. Will be balanced 11%

b. Will not be balanced 86%

c. Not sure/don't know 3%

Survey of 408 senior executives at corporations drawn from the BUSINESS WEEK 1000. Interviews were conducted May 19-23, 1995, for BUSINESS WEEK by Louis Harris & Associates. Results should be accurate to within 4.9 percentage points.Edited by Michele Galen


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