OREM - Now that the state Parent Teacher Association has taken a stand against the tax-limitation initiatives, it is time to prepare local PTA members for the firing line as they spend the next seven weeks giving voters information.
"We take the stands, but you are out on the firing lines," said Darlene Gubler, state PTA president, at a workshop Tuesday. "We want you to know that we are behind you all the way."Gubler, the superintendents from Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts, Utah County Commissioner Malcolm Beck, Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins, Utah Valley Community College President Kerry Romesburg and his assistant Gil Cook were guests at the workshop, held at UVCC.
They presented information to PTA members and answered questions about the tax initiatives.
Three initiatives will be on the general election ballot Nov. 8. One would roll back the 1987 tax increase, restoring sales, income, gasoline and cigarette taxes to 1986 levels. The second would cap property taxes on residential property at 0.75 percent of market value and other property at 1 percent, and would limit growth in state and local governments. The third would give a state income tax credit to parents whose children attend private schools.
A slide show presented by Romesburg detailed where Utah stands in comparison to other states in government and education, and what funds the tax initiatives would cut if passed.
His data says Utah has a much higher percentage of school-age children than any other state in the nation and at the same time spends less per pupil than almost every state.
Utah has the second least amount of administration in education and has the fewest state and local government employees.
Gubler also spent some time assuring the PTA volunteers that they can hold meetings in public buildings and set their own agendas because the PTA is a private organization.
"We have every right in the PTA to set the agenda, and it doesn't have to include both sides. Some say that if we meet in a public building we have to give the other side, but what we are doing in setting the agendas is absolutely correct."
She did advise, however, that members be careful when they sponsor "meet the candidate nights" because the PTA can make a stand but it cannot support a candidate. All candidates must be invited.
Those meetings will be another vehicle for making tax initiative information available to voters, she said.
Gubler also answered questions and attempted to dispel what she calls "myths" about the tax initiatives.
Many people have asked why so much money is going to be lost if Initiative B passes because that law has only been in effect for a year, but she said that piece of legislation was passed to make up for the deficit that the state faced at that time.
Gubler said one myth is that Utah taxpayers will save $326 million, because some of it would be collected on federal income tax returns.
"Right now property tax is deducted from federal taxes, but if we don't have that deduction next year, $83 million will go to the federal government."
Many people have said tax cuts would stimulate the economy, but Nebo School Superintendent Wayne Nelson said: "Economist of large business organizations are against passage. Why are they if it stimulates the economy? There is a real conflict in what people are predicting."
Jenkins said, "It's a myth that if the initiatives don't pass it gives government a mandate to spend more money. That is not true. Past history will tell you that. We have to be careful with scare tactics, but the fact of the matter is if they pass we do have to cut somewhere. I'll cut across the board."