In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Session 2003
DocumentSession 2003
DocumentBudget and Taxes
DocumentHigher Education
DocumentK-12 Education
DocumentHealth and Welfare
DocumentPublic Safety
More from MPR
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Poll: Minnesotans expect property tax increase in wake of budget cuts
Larger view
Although most Minnesotans polled think Gov. Pawlenty is cutting the budget by the right amount, most think it will lead to an increase in their property taxes. (Source: Mason-Dixon Polling & Research)
A new poll shows most Minnesotans are ready to accept the level of spending reductions outlined in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget plan. Last week, Pawlenty released a deficit-reduction package that pruned back planned spending by almost $3 billion and offered no new tax increases. But the survey, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, also shows that majorities of respondents expect the cutbacks to fall hard on some Minnesotans.

St. Paul, Minn. — Sixty-one percent of respondents said they favored the level of Gov. Pawlenty's proposed cuts, although there was concern that he may be cutting in the wrong places. Even so, only 27 percent are prepared to consider state tax increases.

"They understand in all these categories that this is going to be difficult, that this is a great challenge, and it's going to involve some sacrifice," Pawlenty said in response to the poll. "But the answer in the highest-taxed state in the nation -- or one of them -- and the highest-government-spending state in the nation, can't be take more money out of hard-working moms and dads and taxpayers, and that we can do this by adjusting spending."

Larger view
Image General agreement on amount

The poll was conducted in the two days following Pawlenty's budget address. It has a margin of sampling error of plus- or minus-four percentage points.

Joyce Klemz was one of 625 registered voters contacted for the survey. Klemz, of Annandale, is a 44-year-old human services worker in a group home for the mentally disabled. She says there's no doubt that Pawlenty's reductions will cause difficulties for Minnesotans who've come to expect a high level of government services. But she says that's no excuse for hiking taxes.

"We've gotten so used to all the surplus that we think now that that is our right. And that's not true, because we have had it really, really good. And when it comes to trimming the budget, whether it's personally watching what I spend, or whatever the case is, that is going to cause some pain," she said.

In fact, significant majorities of respondents found cuts in most areas could lead to some pain or great pain. Topping the list were reductions to health programs for the poor, aid to higher education, and programs to hold down property taxes. But Klemz says the pain is something Minnesotans will have to accept as the state struggles to erase its deficit.

Bill Binkelman, 48, disagrees. Binkelman, an administrator at Hamline University in St. Paul, says he's willing to pay his fair share of taxes so long as they're directed to education, the environment, and assistance for the disadvantaged.

"I'm definitely not in favor of anything that's going to hurt aid to the underclass. Even greater than education, we just can't afford to pull the rug out on the underclass anymore, especially as high as it's growing," he said.

Without question what the DFL is going to try to do ... is create the attitude, the idea, that the sky if falling.
- Rep. Steve Sviggum

DFL Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger says he expects to hear similar sentiments as Democrats conduct a listening tour throughout the state. Hottinger says voters should have a chance to digest the Pawlenty plan and react.

"Most Minnesotans have not historically agreed that that level of pain was tolerable. And so the big question ends up, is understanding those things, do you want to do anything about it?" Hottinger said.

Hottinger points out that roughly 70 percent of respondents believe Pawlenty's spending cutbacks will leave cities and counties struggling to pay for services previously funded by the state, triggering local property tax hikes. Hottinger says the question isn't will taxes rise, but which ones?

Republican House Speaker Sviggum says the Democratic strategy is to scare Minnesotans into accepting tax hikes. "Without question what the DFL is going to try to do and, the more liberal element of the DFL is going to try to do, is create the attitude, the idea, that the sky if falling, that there is too much pain involved in Gov. Pawlenty's budget, and they have to create an atmosphere for tax increases."

Pawlenty says he'll push for strict limits on how high local governments can raise their property taxes. And he says he'll hit the road this week to make sure Minnesotans fully understand his proposals.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects