Majority of Missouri voters support higher taxes for education

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- A poll released Monday shows that most Missouri voters would pay higher state taxes to help public education, and most approve of the job their local schools are doing.

Voters in the poll, conducted by Maryland-based Research 2000 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis' KMOV-TV, also said they would pay higher taxes to address the cost and supply of health insurance and improve homeland security.

They are more divided over tax increases for better highways, job retention and crime reduction.

The statewide poll, conducted last Wednesday through Friday, surveyed 804 Missourians who say they vote regularly in state elections. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Joe Kinder, a Delta voter who describes himself as an independent, said he told the pollsters he would favor an education tax increase. Kinder, who has grandchildren in school, said he would want assurances first that public school districts are weeding out teachers who have lost their love for teaching.

David Webber, a University of Missouri-Columbia political science professor, said the poll results showing 76 percent say they would pay some higher taxes for education could breathe life into Gov. Bob Holden's call for putting a tax measure to state voters in an election year.

During his State of the State address last month, Holden urged the Republican-controlled legislature to put a package of tax increases before voters in August to help raise more money for schools.

Particularly surprising, Webber said, is the 63 percent support expressed by poll respondents describing themselves as likely Republican voters.

Republican legislative leaders have warned against raising taxes this year to balance the state budget, and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Matt Blunt said he would try to generate more money for schools without new taxes.

Most voters in the poll also gave their local public school districts a passing grade, but only 8 percent gave them an A.

Poll results showed only tepid support for new highway and transportation taxes.

In August 2002, Missouri voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposed tax increase for highways.

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