The fight over the tax limitation initiatives is getting even hotter.
Before November's election, name calling and tough tactics may reach an all-time high for Utah politics.To refresh your memory, on one side are the tax limitation advocates, a citizens' group headed up by Greg Beesley, who has run a number of tax limitation petitions in the past, and Mills Crenshaw, a radio talk show host.
Beesley's Utah Tax Limitation Coalition got more than 65,000 signatures of registered voters on three petitions - an accomplishment by any standard. Polls show two of the three petitions are favored by a majority of Utahns.
On the other side are big-gun politicians and former politicians and the Taxpayers For Utah, a group made up of just about every major civic, government and business organization in Utah.
Taxpayers For Utah is headed by former Govs. Scott M. Matheson and Cal Rampton, both Democrats; and former U.S. Sen. Wallace Bennett and former state Sen. Warren Pugh, both Republicans. The group will raise and spend upwards of $600,000 in its effort to defeat the tax limitation initiatives.
Beesley portrays the fight as his David against their Goliath - everyday citizens against the wealthy and powerful.
Matheson and his group say it is the enlightened and knowledgable against the unenlightened and radical anti-government, anti-school rabble.
The play is getting rough and will probably get rougher.
Beesley says those in Matheson's group are putting pressure on their members - Matheson says 700,000 people belong to the organizations supporting Taxpayers For Utah - to oppose the measures.
He says college presidents and school principals have called their employees together, on taxpayer time, and told them they should vote against the initiatives.
Crenshaw suggested on his radio show that supporters of the measures not do business with or belong to the Taxpayers For Utah organizations. There are reports of people taking their money out of financial institutions opposing the measures.
Fred Ball, president of the Greater Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the measures, said "four or five" chamber members have called his office and threatened to quit the chamber.
"But they didn't leave their names, so I don't know who they are," Ball said. The chamber has more than 3,000 members, so Ball doesn't think Crenshaw's tactics are working.
With the disclosure last week that the major news media organizations in the state, including the Deseret News, gave money to Taxpayers For Utah, Beesley and Crenshaw have new ammunition: they're saying the press is biased against them.
Certainly, there's been a flood of anti-tax limitation stories recently. It seems every time a government employee has a complaint, he or she adds "and it will only be worse if the tax limitation initiatives pass."
It's open season on the initiatives for a number of government officials. But certainly Beesley and Crenshaw should have figured that would happen, since the initiatives would cut about $300 million from government revenues.
Beesley and Crenshaw want Merrill Cook, independent candidate for governor and tax limitation advocate, to help carry their message. Cook will. With TV ads starting this weekend, Cook will tout his support of the initiatives.
But Cook is drawing only 12-13 percent of the vote, far short of the 58 percent support one of the tax-cutting measure shows. So how much Cook can help is unclear.
The challenge for Beesley, Crenshaw and their colleagues is to hold their coalition together and communicate, as best they can, to that majority of Utahns who are still on their side.
Matheson and Taxpayers For Utah, meanwhile, will work to change the minds of 7 to 10 percent of the people, and drop the initiatives to under 50 percent voter support.
Over the next two months the fight will be waged. And it will likely be a bitter one, with more accusations of wrongdoing by both sides to come.