Well Grounded: Rochester Residents Find Common Ground on Spending and Taxes

Last weekend, dozens of Rochesterians came together for an innovative “policymaking simulation” to show elected officials and candidates that there is common ground to be found on federal spending, taxes, and the deficit.

A diverse group of citizens gathered at the offices of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, learned the pros and cons of tough budget choices facing Congress, and used tablets to make their own choices about dozens of programs and revenue sources.

Common Ground Solutions and Voice of the People, both non-profit, non-partisan groups, co-sponsored the event, and Steve Kull of Voice of the People led the policy simulation.

The result? Participants boosted support for education, job training, and alternative energy development, trimmed defense spending and agricultural subsidies, and significantly reduced the annual budget deficit.

After Saturday’s results were tabulated, participants learned how their results compared to a larger, statistically valid survey of registered voters from the local 25th Congressional District, where a contest is underway to fill an open seat. In that survey, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed on steps to reduce the deficit by more than $250 billion, making significant changes on spending and taxes. (A survey fielded among Ohio voters earlier this summer produced very similar results. A majority of Democrats and Republicans found common ground on sensible budget priorities).

You can take the survey here.

Simulation participants felt positive about the event. “I learned from other people talking, what they want from the government,” said Betul Duru, a high school senior. “Not only do I understand my responsibility better,” said Keidai Lee, “but I feel like I have more of a right to speak on that responsibility because I understand.”

At a time when Congress remains too deadlocked to handle even routine matters, these events demonstrate that Americans want to find commonsense solutions to our biggest challenges — and that there’s strength in reaching across the aisle.

Thank you to our Voice of the Voter media partners – the Democrat & Chronicle and WXXI – for their support and coverage, and to the D&C for hosting our event.