ST. PAUL (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura's plan for the state to pay a greater share of public school costs has the backing of about 40 percent of Minnesota voters, according to a poll published Tuesday.
The poll also shows voters are split on the merits of one of the key proposals for paying for the increased costs: broadening the sales tax to services and perhaps clothing.
The poll conducted for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota Public Radio and KARE-11 has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Ventura announced last month that he planned to ask the Legislature to have the state take over full responsibility for basic operating costs of public schools.
The poll also asked respondents their opinions on two recent ideas from Education Commissioner Christine Jax. She said state policy-makers should consider lengthening the school year and perhaps also consider a major consolidation of school districts.
Poll respondents opposed, by a wide margin, the idea of paying higher taxes to get more school days. They also opposed Jax's suggestion that school district boundaries might be redrawn to conform to county lines.
Currently, the state pays about 66 percent of all public school costs, but the Legislature also mandates part of the property taxes that local school boards levy. Under Ventura's plan, the state would pay about 78 percent of school costs. Local boards would continue to impose property taxes, but only for building projects and special programs approved by voters in referendums.
Ventura has not said how the state should pay the $880 million annual cost of increasing the state share of school funding and is not expected to make final recommendations to the Legislature until early 2001.
Revenue Commissioner Matt Smith wants to extend the sales tax to many services that now are not taxed, and he said Ventura told him to study the possibility of applying the sales tax to clothing, which now is tax-exempt.
Services that might be taxed, Smith said Monday, include auto repairs and professional fees such as those charged by lawyers and accountants.
The poll question about the sales tax did not mention the possibility that clothing might be taxed. Forty-one percent of the respondents said they favored paying the sales tax on "more goods and services" in return for lower property taxes. Another 41 percent opposed the idea. Eighteen percent were undecided.
The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research and surveyed 627 registered voters Sept. 22-25.
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