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Legislators heading back to the Capitol on Tuesday should know two important things about Minnesotans: A strong majority say they still support the new income tax on the state’s highest earners. But if there’s extra money this time? They’re ready to have that returned to them.
A new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows that 65 percent of adults say raising income taxes on high earners last year was the right move. But 60 percent also say that if there is a windfall this year it should be returned to taxpayers. Another 32 percent say they would rather have state leaders spend the money on additional services. About 6 percent think any extra money should be divided between tax rebates and new spending.
“I do think that with the higher income amounts come a greater responsibility to ensure the well-being of the country in general,” said Jodi Denzer, a banker from St. Paul Park, who considers herself an independent. “We all have to try to chip in a little more where we can, and the people in higher income brackets have a little more opportunity to do that.”
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton called the results “very instructive.” Dayton, who proposed the tax increase and who now wants to return much of the surplus through tax breaks, noted that “I think people are looking for tax reductions.”
Support for returning the money is strongest outside the Twin Cities. In the suburbs, 61 percent favor returning the money and 73 percent of residents in outstate Minnesota support the same solution.
In Minneapolis and St. Paul, just over half, or 52 percent, favor spending the money on new programs rather than returning it to taxpayers.
The clearest break emerges along political lines. Fully 82 percent of Republicans favor giving the surplus back to individuals, while a little more than half of Democrats want the money spent on new initiatives. Among independents, 66 percent favor returning the money. Among Minnesotans with no party affiliation support is nearly as strong, with 61 percent supporting a giveback.
Republican legislators strongly favor returning the extra money to taxpayers. “We think it should be a priority,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
The Minnesota Poll also finds strong support among Minnesotans for the tax increases passed last year to refill drained reserves, increase education spending and balance the state budget.
In nearly every category — age group, region, income level — a decisive majority support Dayton’s signature budget initiative of raising income taxes on the state’s highest earners.
“I made the argument that it was the right thing to do in terms of tax fairness,” Dayton said. “I think that has proved correct.”
Republicans argue that the surplus shows that Dayton and Democrats were wrong to pass the increase in the first place.
“We said at the time that was unnecessary,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “We have now seen that these tax increases were not necessary.”
Republicans are hoping to use the tax increase against Dayton in his upcoming re-election, but they will have some work to do. The poll found that 65 percent of Minnesotans support the higher tax rate on wealthier taxpayers. Just 24 percent say it was a mistake to raise taxes on joint filers’ taxable income above $254,000 a year. The rest were undecided.
In Minneapolis and St. Paul, 75 percent support the new income tax bracket, with 16 percent opposed. Support dropped slightly in the suburbs, with 68 percent supporting the increase and 23 percent against it.
The only strong opposition came from Republicans, with 52 percent opposed and 28 percent in favor of the tax plan.
Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report.