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Poll finds voters like idea of more funding for roads and transit

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota voters like the idea of changing the state constitution to provide more funding for roads and transit but they're confused by the language that will appear on the ballot, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found.

There will be a 55-word question on the November ballot asking voters to direct all proceeds from the existing vehicle sales tax to transportation. The proposal would earmark an estimated $300 million more per year for new bridges, roads and transit.

According to the poll results published Thursday, 47 percent of a sample of about 400 likely voters surveyed said they would vote for the measure as it will appear on the ballot, and 29 percent opposed it.

But the poll found that support jumped to 59 percent and opposition dropped to 17 percent when around the same number of voters were read a simplified version of the proposed constitutional amendment.

By combining the two questions, 53 percent of all those polled supported the idea. But the newspaper said it's difficult to tell with such a complicated ballot question how much support the proposal really has.

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The poll surveyed 820 likely voters by telephone statewide Sept. 13-15. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The Star Tribune said confusion over the ballot question worries amendment backers because changing the Constitution requires approval of a majority of all those voting in the election -- not just those voting on the question. Any voter who doesn't respond to the ballot question will in effect vote against it.

The language is an issue, acknowledged Margaret Donahoe, a spokeswoman for the Vote Yes For Better Roads and Transit campaign, a $4 million effort to get the amendment passed.

"When you explain this to people, it's common sense that transportation user fees should be used for transportation," Donahoe said. "Obviously our roads and transit systems need more money and the majority of people agree with that."

The state currently spends 53 percent of the taxes collected on car and truck sales on transportation. The rest goes into the general fund for education, health care and other needs. The proposed amendment does not address how the state should deal with the reduction in revenue going into the general fund if the amendment passes.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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