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Utah voters support increasing taxes for education, poll says

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2013 4:34 p.m. MST

Crossing guard Steven Bleak guides children across the street to Harry S. Truman Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011.

Ravell Call, Ravell Call, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Most Utah voters support increasing income taxes to fund education, according to a new poll commissioned by Exoro and the University of Utah's Center for Public Policy and Administration.

The poll, released Wednesday, indicates that 55 percent of Utah voters somewhat or strongly support increasing income taxes, compared to 43 percent who somewhat or strongly oppose an increase. The question was worded to make clear that income taxes are used to fund education, which Robinson said likely contributed to the positive results, said Jennifer Robinson, director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration.

"When people understand how their tax dollars are spent, they're more supportive of increases," she said. "What you really see from the results here is the priority is on education."

The poll also shows that an overwhelming majority of voters — 88 percent — think it's important for the state to focus on education, compared to other issues like economic development, health care reform, immigration policy and transportation, which scored 82 percent, 66 percent, 59 percent and 46 percent respectively.

"It's just an enormous number," Robinson said. "That's almost to the point where you say it's a mandate from the public to focus on education."

When asked where specific education issues fall on voters' priority lists, 87 percent placed third-grade literacy at or near the top, followed in order of support by investing in public education, focusing on high school career readiness and reducing class size.

Poll participants were also receptive to other tax increases, with 54 percent strongly or somewhat supporting an increase in the sales tax and 50 percent saying they support returning the sales tax on food to previous levels.

The poll showed that voters were not willing to raise the gasoline tax to address transportation needs, with 51 percent strongly or somewhat opposed compared to 45 percent in support.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 537 registered voters and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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