A majority of Minnesotans don’t want to pay higher gas taxes, the Minneapolis-based, right-leaning Center of the American Experiment announced last week as it trumpeted the results of an April 26-28 poll of 500 Minnesotans.
We’re not surprised. When asked whether they want to pay more taxes for any purpose, most people’s knee-jerk response is “no.” In fact, it’s remarkable that 29 percent of those polled said yes to a higher gas tax, given that the question asked by pollster Meeting Street Research advised respondents that some Minnesota legislators say existing taxes are sufficient to do the transportation job. Independent experts say they aren’t, but that assessment was not shared with those polled.
While the gas tax results may give Republican legislators comfort in this, the last full week of the 2015 regular session, other poll nuggets should give the House GOP majority pause. For example: Three out of five poll respondents favor expansion of light-rail transit in the Twin Cities, even as they also favor better roads and bus service. The House GOP transportation bill would lead to reduced bus service and kill rail transit expansion.
A big tax cut — the top House GOP priority — is not on most wish lists for this session. More education investment tops Minnesotans’ priorities for the 2015 Legislature by a strong margin over the next-most-popular item, “the economy,” on a 12-issue list offered to respondents. More than a third of those polled said education should be in first or second place with legislators. Cutting taxes came in fifth place statewide, and didn’t make the top five in the metro area.
As for the economy: Minnesotans think it’s pretty good. The “right direction/wrong track” question that’s become a polling standard for gauging the electorate’s appetite for change produced strikingly positive results. Nearly three out of five respondents said Minnesota is “going in the right direction.” Only a third of those polled said the same about the nation as a whole.
We’d distill the poll’s results into this message to legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton as they seek to wrap up the legislative session: Minnesota isn’t broken. Strong medicine to fix it — such as a big tax cut — is not needed.