By Jonathan Sheir and Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – President Bush’s first address to Congress called for sweeping tax cuts, but few Marylanders see that as a top priority, according to a new poll.
Addressing a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, Bush laid out his plan for expanding education funding, increasing military spending and shoring up Medicare and Social Security, while also promoting his $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal.
The items in the president’s budget plan were met with various levels of enthusiasm, with well over 75 interruptions for applause from the audience, which included both chambers of Congress, the Supreme Court, the diplomatic corps and the Cabinet.
Bush also received bipartisan standing ovations for a laundry list of initiatives for education, health care and racial justice.
But only the Republican side of the chamber stood when he called for his tax cut.
The same partisan reaction showed up in a poll taken earlier this month in Maryland. The poll by Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications showed Democrats in Maryland are strongly opposed Bush’s tax plan and Republicans overwhelmingly in favor of it.
The poll found that 49 percent of Marylanders supported the president’s proposed tax cut, with only 36 percent opposed. Blacks opposed the cut by a two- to-one margin, and only 32 percent of Democrats supported it. Republicans, however, supported it 84 percent to 7 percent.
Despite the cut’s relative popularity, it is not a high priority for Marylanders. Only 10 percent said it was the most important issue in Washington, according to the Gonzales/Arscott poll. The poll was taken from Feb. 20 to 23 and had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Since median incomes are higher, Maryland taxpayers would benefit more from the tax cut than those in many other states, according to numbers from the Heritage Foundation.
The conservative think-tank said an average single filer in Maryland with no dependents would save $331, the 10th-highest savings of any state. And a family of four would save $1,600.
“Some of us are very concerned that the tax cut that’s being proposed is too large and will not permit funding for some key issues such as education and prescription drug coverage,” Gov. Parris Glendening told Bush at a Monday meeting of the National Governors Association, according to press reports.
Bush’s job-approval rating was 55 percent before the speech, the lowest of any newly elected president since Eisenhower, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday. His approval rating in Maryland was even lower, at 47 percent, according to the Gonzales/Arscott poll.
The poll pointed out, however, that Bush lost Maryland by 17 percentage points in the 2000 election, so the results were “not bad, considering where he started.”