Utah will be left with a "legacy of illiteracy, unemployment, and reactionary leadership" if the tax-limitation initiatives pass, former Gov. Scott Matheson told 2,000 Davis County teachers Monday.
He said that in 1988 the major campaign is not between candidates, but between a "yes" and "no" vote on the three tax-limitation initiatives."The singular most important issue in many a decade is the tax initiatives of 1988. If they pass, the impact will leave a tremendous residual devastation on the state and on the future," said Matheson.
Initiatives A and B, which would limit income, gas and sales tax, would cut $330 million from state budgets. That would represent a 13 percent cut for local governments, Matheson said.
For teachers, that would mean an 8- to 10-percent cut in teaching staffs coming from a $141 million cut to public education.
"Vote yes and watch the state go up in a cloud of illiterate smoke," Matheson said.
Since kindergarten is not required by state law, that would be one of the first likely cuts to public education. Other cuts could affect busing.
He said the initiatives would be the most far-reaching in recent memory. "No other state in recent history has approved that kind of massive, crippling tax cut," he said. Even in California, when Proposition 13 passed, the state had a $4 billion surplus to cushion the blow. Even so, 10 years later, many counties lie at the brink of bankruptcy. If the tax limitations pass in Utah, the state has no surplus and the effects would be even more devastating, Matheson added.
He said the initiatives would cause a shift from local government control to the state and federal level. Local governments, strapped for dollars, would, in effect, have to go to Salt Lake City and Washington and "beg." The initiatives would also encourage more government borrowing and greater debt, Matheson said.
Matheson said there is no fat in Utah's educational sytstem. While teacher-pupil and administrator-to-pupil ratios are among the highest in the nation, the educational efficiency in those areas is near the top nationally.
"Where's the fat? Where's the fat?" he asked rhetorically.
Matheson said tax initiative C, which would give tax credits to families with students in private and home schools, won't work. "Four thousand students will have to leave the public schools to make a dime's worth of difference," he said.
While he can understand why the initiatives might be appealing to many families, he said the effects of keeping businesses away from the state and the increase in fees for services may actually outweigh such savings.