The gauntlet has been dropped. The battle lines are forming. Sides are being taken.
Sound like a movie about medieval times? Not hardly. It's a battle to repeal the recently passed restaurant tax that doesn't even take effect until July 1.On the side to repeal the tax is the Utah Restaurant Association, which plans to gather signatures on petitions in an attempt to get the issue on the November 1992 ballot. Lined up against the association, among others, is the board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
During Tuesday's board meeting, Salt Lake County Commissioner Jim Bradley said he wasn't tickled by an effort by Ron Morgan, association president, to get the issue on the ballot. Morgan announced several days ago that petitions would be available in Utah restaurants where people can sign them in the effort to get HB438 repealed.
Bradley said he finds it interesting that when the bill was being debated by the Legislature the restaurant group supported the idea that a portion of the 1 percent tax go to the Utah Travel Council for out-of-state tourism advertising.
He said the proposal received plenty of attention in the recent legislative session when everyone had a chance to express their views. Bradley considers the tax an equitable way to support the Salt Palace convention facilities, Symphony Hall and the Capitol Theatre because many out-of-state people using the facilities will help support them.
Next fall when the Accord Arena in the Salt Palace doesn't generate any revenue (because the Utah Jazz and the Salt Lake Golden Eagles will be playing in a new arena) revenue must be found to maintain the above-mentioned facilities.
Fred S. Ball, chamber president, said Morgan has been invited to the board's May 14 meeting to explain his position on the attempt to repeal the 1 percent restaurant tax.
Truman Clawson, chairman of the chamber's Salt Palace Renovation Committee, said the big job facing the chamber and county officials is to educate the public about the tax. He said the big push will be to prevent the restaurants from getting the needed 65,000 signatures, and if that fails the next move is to convince the public to vote against the repeal.
Patricia Simmons, director of government affairs for the chamber, outlined the provisions of HB438. It allows each Utah county the option of imposing a tax of up to 1 percent on restaurant food where the food is prepared for immediate consumption.
The tax revenue collected by a county will stay in that county and be used to develop tourism, recreation and cultural and convention facilities. Salt Lake County may impose an additional 1/2 of 1 percent transient room tax, with the revenue used for tourism promotion.
Bradley said the County Commission is scheduled to pass the 1 percent tax on restaurant food during its Wednesday meeting.