Lt. Gov. Val Oveson wants Utahns to know that the most important insert in newspapers throughout the state Sunday won't be advertisements, coupons or even comics.
It's the Utah Voter Information Pamphlet, a 28-page guide to understanding the two proposed amendments to the state constitution and the initiative to take the sales tax off food that will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.The lieutenant governor is required by law to publish the pamphlet, which is distributed through the state's newspapers as well as libraries and other public facilities.
Voters, of course, aren't required to read the pamphlet before they go to the polls. But Oveson said the publication, which is costing the state $96,000 to print and distribute, should be studied by every voter.
"It's very important that they understand what's on the ballot before they vote," the lieutenant governor said at a Friday press conference called to announce the pamphlets are now available.
Despite the encouragement, not every Utahn reads the pamphlets, according to a poll commissioned by the state. Oveson said a 1988 survey of 609 Utahns found that only about 70 percent even got a copy of the guide.
Most of those who had the pamphlet read it. The survey found that 84 percent read either all or part of the guide, and most said it was helpful to them.
The pamphlet is supposed to provide arguments both for and against every ballot question. But Oveson said the state was not able to find any opposition to the two constitutional amendments, even through newspaper advertisements.
Proposition 1 asks voters to amend the portion of the state constitution that allows the Legislature to authorize communities to create special service districts.
The "Special Districts Amendment" would change the word "hospital" to "health care" in the list of purposes for which a special service district can be created, in order to accommodate the needs of smaller communities.
Proposition 2, the "Emergency Powers Amendment," would grant the Legislature emergency powers in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Currently, the constitution grants such powers only in the event of enemy attack.
Arguments for both propositions were written by the lawmakers that sponsored the legislation placing them on the ballot, Rep. Joseph Moody, R-Delta, and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan.
The chief proponent of Initiative A, Independent Party Chairman Merrill Cook, wrote the arguments for taking the sales tax off food. House Speaker Nolan Karras, R-Roy, wrote the arguments against the initiative.
Cook states that passing the initiative would result in every man, woman and child in Utah getting the equivalent of 3 1/2 weeks of free food each year.
Cook said the revenue loss can be made up by spending the state surplus, eliminating some sales tax exemptions given to businesses and cutting wasteful government spending.
Karras said a family of four with an annual income of more than $60,000 would see their food bills reduced $270 a year, and families with incomes below $20,000 would save $170 annually.
The speaker said the "pressures would be very high" to make up the lost revenues at the state and local government level through increases in property, utility and/or income taxes.