Tax limitation worked in California and Massachusetts, and it can work in Utah, said independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook.
Wrong, said Taxpayers for Utah Fund Raising Co-chairman Patrick Shea.Cook and Shea debated the tax initiative issue at University of Utah on Friday afternoon before an audience of student body officers and representatives from nine public colleges and institutions thoughout the state and from Brigham Young University. The theme was "Participation 1988."
Cook, representing the people who believe there has to be a limit to what a taxpayer can pay, said Utah needs to focus on the people who are having a hard time putting food on their table or making their car payments.
"Citizens need higher wages, and they need more money to spend on themselves," he said.
Cook said the opposition will try to convince voters that if the tax limitation initiative is passed, kindergarten and social services will be cut and highway repairs will be stopped.
"That's not so," said Cook. "My plan would call for a realigning of Utah's $2.6 billion budget."
Cook said increasing the teaching load of the state's college professors, which are low by national standards, would save $15 million.
"By increasing their work load, we could actually raise faculty salaries . . . Tax limitations did work in California, and the University of California did not fall off into the bay like many predicted it would."
Shea said Cook has his facts wrong. "The California and Massachusetts initiatives were strictly property tax limitations," said Shea. "What Cook is proposing will cut not only property taxes, but gas tax and cigarette tax as well."
Shea also stated when California cut their taxes in 1979, the state had a $4.5 billion surplus and the tax rate was higher. Now the Los Angles Times reports before Proposition 13, California was a state that looked forward to and planned its future. Now it is a state that reacts, he said.
"California has had to close libraries and move prisoners to balance its budget. Utah has no surplus nor an economy near as flourishing as California," said Shea.
Shea said there was no rollback in Massachusetts, only a property tax reduction and that residents of both states pay higher property taxes than Utah.
Shea said the bill gives only those who educate their children in private schools or at home a tax break.
"The problem with radical rights (a term Shea used to describe Cook and his supporters) is they take a butcher's knife to perform surgery that should be done with a scalpel."
Tony Morgan, vice president of budget and planning said Cook's plan to increase the teaching load of college professors would lessen their time and ability to do research.
"Some part of the education system needs to be involved in the creation of knowledge, not just the transmission of that knowledge," said Morgan. "Cook's plan would be to cut back on research, and that would mean loosing a good portion of the $100 million the University of Utah brings in annually in research contracts.
"More that 55 local companies have been created out of the U. of U. research totally in some 4,500 new jobs. Utah State University has similar figures for their research," Morgan said. "Research, new technology, new jobs, that's where the action is in the high-tech sector of economy."