The state's first two political information committees filed reports with the lieutenant governor's office showing they are spending nearly $23,000 to defeat the initiative to take the sales tax off food.
Utahns For Higher Education, formed by the Board of Regents to fight the initiative, is spending the most money - a total of $21,500 on radio commercials and newspaper advertising.The University of Utah student government association formed their own anti-initiative group, Associated Students For Higher Education. They have already spent $1,584 on advertising and promotions.
Their expenditures compare to the estimated $10,000 Independent Party Chairman Merrill Cook said has been raised for radio commercials, fliers and hopefully, newspaper advertisements.
While Utahns For Higher Education reported receiving 17 contributions of $500 or more, Cook said the only contribution over that amount received by the Independent Party was the money he donated.
Cook's total contribution to the Independent Party has been about $7,000. Overall, the party has accumulated about $20,000, including the $10,000 used for initiative advertising.
The biggest contributions reported by Utahns For Higher Education included $2,000 from the Utah Education Association, $1,000 from Citizen Action by Public Employees and $1,000 each from faculty groups at Weber State College and Southern Utah State College.
First to appear were the student's efforts, $1,274 in bus-side advertising that read, "Don't Eat Up Our Future. Vote No On Initiative A," accompanied by a picture of an apple with a bite out of it.
The students used another $310 to buy 5,000 apples that were handed out at the U. homecoming game last weekend along with a flyer that bore the same message.
Brian Barnhill, chairman of the U. student government public affairs board, said the student government effort was aimed at reaching students' parents and alumni as well as their classmates.
Radio commercials voiced by another student government leader and a former chairman of the Board of Regents, paid for by Utahns For Higher Education, have already started to air on stations along the Wasatch Front.
U. Student-body President John Wunderli, who also heads up the association of Utah college and university student-body presidents, and businessman Kem Gardner, a former Board of Regents chairman, both have the same message for voters.
Their ads say the initiative would prevent the state's universities and colleges from providing Utah with the trained work force needed for a strong economy, according to regent spokeswoman Vicki Varela.
A newspaper advertisement scheduled to run in both Salt Lake dailies as well as newspapers in Logan, Provo and St. George, carries the warning, "Pass This And We All Fail," Varela said.
The advertisement details how the initiative would reduce the state's higher education budget by $31 million, cutting funding for an estimated 9,600 students.
Radio commercials for the initiative paid for by the Independent Party have been airing for about two weeks and were changed earlier this week to reflect updated estimates from the governor on how much money will be available for next year's budget.
Cook said late Friday the party was still trying to raise the nearly $800 needed for a small advertisement in the Salt Lake papers scheduled to run Sunday.
That ad carried the same information as the party's flier, warning taxpayers that the initiative may be their last chance to vote for a tax cut after the tax increases passed by Congress.