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AMERICANS IN POLL SAY THEY TRUST LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BUT DISLIKE PROPERTY TAX

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Americans have more trust and confidence in local governments than in state and federal governments, although local property taxes rank as the most disliked of all taxes, according to a national survey.

The popularity of local government, as opposed to federal and state governments, "may be a reflection that it is the government closest to the people," said the Utah Foundation, a private research organization that released results Monday of the public opinion poll by the Advisory Commission of Intergovernmental Relations."For the most part, the average citizen has more input at the local level than at the federal and state levels," the foundation said. "Officials at the federal and state levels usually are much more remote and inaccessible."

Federal government did earn the most trust of those polled when it came to dealing with various social issues, such as fighting air pollution and illegal drugs. State government was selected as best able to improve public schools and manage urban development, while local governments were chosen for disposing or recycling trash.

Regarding the homeless question, "nearly equal portions of respondents selected each type of government to deal with the homeless," the foundation said. "Various studies of the homeless question have suggested that all levels of government as well as the private sector should become involved in dealing with this problem."

Despite relative popularity of local government, local property taxes were rated the worst or least fair tax, the survey said.

Strong opposition to property tax may stem from it being the one tax most individuals and families must pay in one lump sum, the foundation noted. Many other taxes are either paid in small amounts throughout the year or withheld from wages.

But property tax, though always unpopular, wasn't ranked the worst in years past. From 1979-88, the dubious honor belonged to federal income tax. The break in the trend may indicate federal tax reform has had an impact on public opinion, the foundation said.

At the same time, local governments have been pressured to raise property taxes to make up for declining federal aid and rising costs, say foundation analysts, contributing to increased dislike of property taxes.

***** (Additional information)

Attitude about government

Level of Spends most Responds best Most

government wisely to needs honest official

Federal 11 percent 18 percent 13 percent

State 20 percent 21 percent 11 percent

Local 36 percent 40 percent 35 percent

All of them 2 percent 3 percent 5 percent

None of them 19 percent 8 percent 25 percent

Don't know/ No answer 12 percent 10 percent 11 percent

Source: Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations