Minnesotans favor budget road not taken: Balance spending cuts and new revenue

August 8, 2011

Two out of three Minnesota residents want state leaders to balance the budget using a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, according to a new MinnPost poll. It found 66 percent favor a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Only 23 percent want spending cuts only.

This finding is consistent with other polls.

  • The Star Tribune reported in May on a Minnesota Poll that said: “Sixty-three percent of respondents said they favor a blend of higher taxes and service reductions to tackle the state’s $5 billion projected deficit. Just 27 percent said they want state leaders to balance the budget solely through cuts.”
  • Public Policy Polling survey published in June asked Minnesotans: “Would you support a tax increase on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans to help balance the state budget, or do you think the budget should be balanced through cuts only?” And 63 of respondents favored the tax increase, compared to only 32 percent that supported cuts only.

Minnesota public opinion has been clear and consistent in its support for a balanced approach, including new revenues. This approach protects critical services such as education, health care, and support for seniors and people with disabilities. Numerous editorials from around the state supported a balanced approach as well.

Minnesotans support raising revenue when they understand what’s at stake. As Growth & Justice wrote in 2010:

Over many years, polls in Minnesota consistently have shown support for revenue-raising if the question is asked with even a smidgeon of context that reminds people what taxes pay for. Ask people point-blank whether they want to pay more in taxes, and they tend to say no. Ask them point-blank whether they want to slash investments in schools and roads and nursing homes, and they also will say no.

Unfortunately, the final budget deal was made up of spending cuts and timing shifts and other one-time fixes.

The legislative session is over, but the debate is not. We still have a mismatch between what our tax system raises and what it costs to fund our state’s priorities.

When two out of three Minnesotans support a balanced approach, legislative leaders should listen. They should do the right thing and create a sustainable budget — and a prosperous future — using a mix of spending cuts and new revenues, raised fairly.

-Scott Russell

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