ST. PAUL (AP) -- Most Minnesotans are ready to accept the level of spending cuts outlined in Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget plan and only a minority support higher state taxes, according to a poll released Monday.
Three out of five Minnesota voters surveyed for the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Minnesota Public Radio poll said the Republican governor plans to cut the right amount from the state budget, and only about one-fourth think he should consider raising taxes to plug a $4.2 billion budget gap.
But 69 percent of those polled said they expect local property taxes to go up if, as Pawlenty has promised, he and lawmakers balance the state's budget crisis without raising state taxes.
More than 80 percent of poll respondents expressed significant concern about the potential impact of spending cuts on public schools, health care for the poor and law enforcement. They were relatively split in their reactions to a proposed pay freeze for state employees and potential cutbacks in service at state parks.
Pawlenty said the poll confirms he's taking the right approach.
"Minnesotans know this is a crisis that is going to be difficult, and they also know that raising taxes in this high-government-spending state is not the answer," he said.
Pawlenty also said two more of his proposals -- tax levy limits and reverse referendums that would let voters demand a direct say on tax increases -- should keep local governments from bumping up property taxes to compensate for reduced state aid.
The governor believes cities, counties and school districts should exercise the same fiscal restraint he proposed for state government.
"Property taxes shouldn't go up at more than the normal level," he said.
The poll was conducted for the Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The company questioned 625 registered Minnesota voters on Wednesday and Thursday, following Pawlenty's budget message to lawmakers last Tuesday. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Brad Coker, managing director of the polling company, said the poll results provide little support for lawmakers who want to raise taxes. Only 27 percent of the voters questioned said Pawlenty should consider increasing taxes.
"The plurality says he's doing about right in terms of his priorities and spending cuts," Coker said. "There's no consensus out there for anybody to propose a tax increase; it's dead on arrival."
In two previous polls, Minnesotans supported fixing the deficit through spending cuts rather than tax increases.
In September, 54 percent of the people questioned in a Pioneer Press-MPR poll said the budget should be balanced through spending cuts; 18 percent favored tax increases.
In January, 61 percent of those responding to a Star Tribune poll said raising taxes was not an appropriate response to the budget deficit.
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