Even though, as elected officials, they may be considered the least credible source of information on the proposed tax limitation initiatives, City Council members decided Tuesday to take a public stand against them.
"We are the enemy," Councilman Keith Hunt said. "For those who support the initiatives, we are the problem they're opposed to. As elected officials who can raise taxes, people who support the initiatives see us as the least credible source of information there is. I'm not sure our making a statement would change any minds."But Councilman Kelvin Clayton said many Orem residents are undecided and taking a stand is the council's responsibility.
"We have been elected to represent the voters and to collect information for them. The citizens of Orem should be able to look to their officials for leadership."
Orem officials, like many other state, city and county officials, are worried the proposed tax limitation initiatives would cut funds needed to provide essential services and also would limit future economic growth.
Initiative A would limit residentialproperty taxes to 0.75 percent of market value and other property taxes to 1 percent of market value. Initiative B would restore income, sales, gasoline and cigarette taxes to their 1986 levels. Initiative C would provide a tax credit to parents of children attending private schools.
The proposals will be on the general election ballot Nov. 8.
"The people who support this don't realize they aren't just lowering their taxes," said Phil Goodrich, Orem's director of administrative services. "They are chipping away at the checks and balances built into our government. They are taking away the power for elected officials to act for them.
"It's sad to think Utah might be the state to challenge the very principles upon which representative government is based."
Supporters of the initiatives say they are similar to tax-cutting measures passed in California and Massachusetts, Goodrich said.
"It's like comparing apples and oranges," he said. "The demographics are too different."
Goodrich said Utah has the nation's greatest percentage of children younger than 17. Utah is a sparsely populated state, he said, and "does not have the `economics of scale.'
"In Utah we are approaching 2 million (people)," Goodrich said. "That is not quite the size of San Diego County."
Proposition 13 worked for California in 1978 because the state had a $4 billion surplus, he said.
"Utah would need a $250 million surplus to do the same thing."
Goodrich added that California's Proposition 13 and Massachusetts' Proposition 21/2 limited only property tax, not income, sales, gasoline and cigarette taxes.
And Utahns already have a good deal, he said. An 18,000-square-foot house would cost $1,580 in annual property taxes in San Diego, $2,939.13 in Boston but only $939.06 in Utah, he said.
The long-term damage from the initiatives could be to economic growth, Goodrich said.
"The initiatives would be a disincentive to economic development. There would be no incentive for cities to work at building their tax base if they couldn't benefit from increased funds."
A public debate on the tax-limitation initiatives will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Council Chambers.