Minnesotans are evenly split over the Republican tax overhaul that recently became law even as a majority believes high-income Americans will see the most benefit, a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found.
An identical percentage of registered voters — 43 percent — expressed support for and disapproval of the measure, while 14 percent in the survey of 800 residents said they are undecided. Support was lowest in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but cleared 50 percent in every other part of the state. And despite perceptions that it benefits the wealthiest taxpayers, the measure earned slightly higher approval numbers from people who earn less than $50,000 a year than those who make more than that.
A full 57 percent said they expect richer people to fare better than those in low- and middle-income brackets, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to deliver a “massive tax cut for … everyday working Americans.” Just 27 percent see the middle class benefiting most.
Terri Zwolski, 65, of Brooklyn Park, said the tax cut “just is more for the wealthy. They always get more benefits than we do.”
Jason Sannes-Venhuizen, 43, a self-employed registered nurse in Frazee, disagreed. He voted for Trump and said he trusts the president and congressional Republicans to “do what they feel is best. I think it’s going to be fair.”
The law, which Trump signed Dec. 22, doesn’t affect 2017 taxes, for which Americans will soon file returns.
Republicans call it the largest tax cut since 1986, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that it could add at least $1.4 trillion to the deficit over a decade — an estimate that could be much higher if a future Congress intervenes to continue individual tax cuts, which are set to expire after 2025. Most corporate tax cuts, including a drop in the top rate from 35 to 21 percent, are permanent.
The new law also lowers individual rates, increases standard deductions for individuals and couples and doubles child tax credits. But it puts a $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes.
That adds up to a bad deal for people like herself, said Leah Wilkes, 49. “In the long run, we’ll look back on this tax plan as something that will cripple the lower and middle classes,” she said. “It’s already becoming apparent.”
Wilkes, who lives in Minneapolis and is in the midst of a career change, didn’t vote for Trump in 2016.
Overall sentiments toward the president were a reliable barometer for views of his tax overhaul, the poll showed: 91 percent of Democrats disapproved of the plan, while 83 percent of Republicans backed it. And 89 percent of Democrats who were polled said the law will benefit high earners; 51 percent of Republicans said they expect the middle class to be helped the most.
The poll also tracked a gender gap. Most women — 66 percent — said the richest Americans will see the most positive effects; 47 percent of men agreed with that idea.
The gap also was apparent on the question of overall support for the tax plan. More women than men disapproved.
Men and women agreed, however, when asked if they expect their own taxes to go up, down or remain the same. Thirty-nine percent of each gender said they’ll probably stay the same. Overall, 27 percent of Minnesotans said their taxes will likely dip and 24 percent expect them to rise.
The survey also found a rural/urban divide on taxes — mirroring the one evident in the 2016 presidential election, when Hennepin and Ramsey counties gave Trump the state’s lowest levels of support.
Residents of the state’s two most populous counties were most solidly opposed to the tax plan at 64 percent. People who live in Ramsey and Hennepin — and metro suburbs — also were most likely to conclude that high-income people would be winners under the plan.
The Minnesota Poll was conducted Jan. 8-10 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
A national Gallup Poll conducted Jan. 2-7 found more dramatic disparities. Fifty-five percent of people said they disapprove of the law and 33 percent supported it. Approval had inched up from 29 percent in a Gallup Poll taken before the final votes in Congress and Trump’s signature on the plan.
Sean Worthington of Duluth, who does property valuations for a local government, knows a thing or two about taxes and said he’s willing to give Trump and congressional Republicans the benefit of the doubt.
The new law includes “some long-needed reforms,” he said. “Whether or not these are perfect would be debatable, but I think [the tax system] has become very complex and the ability to understand it has become more and more difficult.”
Worthington, 45, who voted for Trump, said that in the short term he’ll “probably end up paying less” under the Republican overhaul. “But I’m educated enough to understand the CBO and all of those things,” he said. “Ten years down the road, if it’s not looked at again, it likely will hurt a great number of folks.”
He also hopes that easing corporate tax burdens will have long-term benefits. “There has been a huge incentive based on the overall tax structure for some of these companies to offshore,” Worthington said. “If in some way [the new law] brings businesses back to the states, then I say it’s a win.”
Sannes-Venhuizen also has enough faith in the president to let the tax cuts play out. Trump “was elected by the people, and I want to give him a shot,” he said. “If there’s something that’s really off … we’ll have to work together” to remedy it.
Zwolski has no such tolerance. She wishes the money that will go to tax cuts could be spent instead on improving infrastructure, providing health care for children and “taking care” of the “dreamers” — the children of undocumented immigrants who are threatened with deportation.
She’s ready to send a message in this fall’s midterm elections to members of Congress — including Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents her — that Trump’s policies aren’t good for Minnesotans.
“Hopefully the American people will have learned a lesson from this guy,” she said.
Like Zwolski, Wilkes has a list of social woes that she thinks needs attention — and worries that some of the funds are going instead to offset tax cuts.
“What will happen is a lot of social programs will be cut,” she said. “If there’s not enough help for people as far as mental health, assisting the homeless and dealing with the impact on low-income people, it will affect the whole community.”