Many Utahns want more money spent on education and public safety, yet they still want their taxes cut. It's a split-personality trait that those in favor of and those against the tax limitation initiatives must deal with.
The latest Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret News and KSL-TV shows that 59 percent of those questioned think more money should be spent on public education. Forty-four percent want more money spent on colleges and universities, and 48 percent want more spent on state public safety (the Highway Patrol and drug enforcement).Yet, in a poll published Sunday, Jones also found that 56 percent want to eliminate the 1987 tax increases imposed by the Legislature and Gov. Norm Bangerter and 57 percent want to limit property taxes. Those two measures are initiatives that will appear on the November ballot.
Jones also found that in the upcoming battle concerning the impacts of the initiatives on government and school programs, the news media has the most credibility, followed in descending order by current government and education officials; a civic group (Taxpayers For Utah) opposed to the initiatives; friends and neighbors; and tax limitation advocates (Utah Tax Limitation Coalition).
Phil Mettra, campaign manager for Taxpayers For Utah, said Jones' poll shows him that most Utahns "still want their cake and eat it too."
"Most Utahns want the tax cuts, and they want more spending for education and the same spending for other programs. But you can't have the tax cuts _ that will cost $329 million _ and keep the same quality of life. It doesn't work that way. You can't have it all," Mettra said.
Greg Beesley, chairman of the Utah Tax Limitation Coalition, the group that got enough registered voter signatures to get the three initiatives on the ballot, said the poll tells him that Utahns aren't buying the scare tactics of the opponents. However, Beesley said, the poll still didn't ask the right questions.
"In addition to asking where money should be spent, you should have asked if the citizens believe those state agencies could be more efficient in their spending," Beesley said. "Your question assumes that the departments are running at 100 percent efficiency. They aren't. As the availability of resources diminishes, efficiency increases, and you don't have to cut" the actual efficiency of a program.
Beesley said Taxpayers For Utah representatives "have been speaking to groups 10 times more than we have, and bringing in their glitzy show and scare tactics. Yet, our credibility, as measured by the poll, is about the same as theirs. Frankly, that's great."
Mettra said his group doesn't use scare tactics or glitzy programs. "Our job (at the campaign) is to educate people so they realize that we want to keep the services they want," he said.
Mettra said that Taxpayers For Utah is made up of dozens of civic, business and government groups whose memberships total 700,000 people. "We're not going to run a big media campaign. We're running a people-to-people campaign. If we get our own 700,000 people (to vote against the initiatives), and we get each of them to talk to a neighbor, friend or relative, we'll turn the tide.
"Admittedly, it will come down to who does the voter believe, us or them? We have the most credible people on our side _ not just the former government leaders, but all of our groups. We have the good, solid numbers on what (the initiatives) mean in revenue cuts," Mettra said.
Beesley complemented Utahns for not believing the opposition's claims. "The citizens can make judgments independent of what the big guns say."
In making up your mind about the tax limitation initiatives, how much credibility would you give the following concerning the impacts of the initiatives?
A great Don't
deal Some None know
News media 20 percent 64 percent 12 percent 4 percent
Current officials 17 percent 61 percent 17 percent 5 percent
Friends & neighbors 13 percent 57 percent 24 percent 7 percent
Tax limitation leaders 13 percent 54 percent 24 percent 9 percent
Initiative opponents 14 percent 54 percent 21 percent 11 percent
Do you generally think the amount of tax money spent should be increased, held at the current level or cut back in the following areas?
Increase level Decrease know
Public education 59 percent 31 percent 7 percent 3 percent
Universities 44 percent 41 percent 11 percent 4 percent
Prisons 31 percent 42 percent 20 percent 7 percent
Social services 27 percent 47 percent 22 percent 4 percent
Roads & highways 42 percent 50 percent 5 percent 3 percent
Public safety 48 percent 44 percent 5 percent 3 percent
Parks & recreation 21 percent 64 percent 13 percent 2 percent
Sample size: 905; margin of error plus or minus 3.2 percent