Think of the Salt Palace the next time you eat at a restaurant - and bring extra change.
Salt Lake County passed a 1 percent restaurant tax Wednesday to help maintain the Salt Palace convention center once it is renovated and expanded, as well as Symphony Hall, the Capitol Theatre and the Arts Center. They passed it unanimously - despite an imminent petition drive by restaurant owners and angry customers.County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley, who successfully campaigned last year by criticizing unpopular Salt Palace practices, urged county residents to keep the tax in perspective.
"It is 3 cents on a $3 sandwich, 20 cents on a $20 lunch for two, $1 on a $100 dinner tab at an expensive restaurant," he said. "And these funds will go to support the cultural infrastructure which is critical to keeping our community vibrant."
Restaurant owners have vowed to place petitions on every table they own, asking their customers to sign if they are upset at having to pay more for their meals.
If 65,000 people sign, voters in the state will get the chance to repeal the tax during the 1992 November election. The petition has been given to the state attorney general's office, which has until May 10 to decide whether to certify it as legal.
According to Ron Morgan, association president, the petition will basically say this: "Do you want to pay the tax and support facilities like the Salt Palace? Or do you want Utah be like every other state and have tourists and those people using the facility pay for it?"
Bradley said he is determined not to use property taxes to subsidize the Salt Palace.
"This is not a perfect tax, but I believe it is the appropriate levy to make in these circumstances," Bradley said. "There are already hotel and auto-rental taxes in place. A restaurant tax will allow visitors to our county to make a further contribution to the upkeep of the facilities we have provided to attract them."
He said the new tax also may be used for cultural, recreational and tourist promotion in other parts of the county after the Salt Palace has met its obligations.
The Legislature gave each county the option of imposing the tax. Salt Lake County is the first to do so, although Utah County officials already have indicated they will do so. Voters in that county have approved a plan to use the money to build a new special events center at Utah Valley Community College.