Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, plans to vote against three tax initiatives on Utah's Nov. 8 ballot because "they go too far."
But he says this doesn't mean he's "giving the light to big spenders.""I am a tax cutter at heart, and I have spent most of my public career looking for ways to reduce taxes, cut spending and balance the federal budget," the senator said.
Hatch's announcement Thursday came on the heels of his first public debate Tuesday with Democratic opponent Brian Moss. In the radio debate, Moss was on the attack all evening, trying to pin Hatch down on the tax initiatives.
But the veteran senator wouldn't bite.
His rationale: "During the nearly 12 years I have been in the United States Senate, I have attempted to follow a fairly strict policy of not telling Utah voters how to vote on ballot initiatives or propositions that involve exclusively state or local government issues."
But Thursday Hatch had a change of heart and in a news release announced he'll vote against the initiatives, but will not join the large group of civic and community leaders working to defeat the initiatives.
"I am up for re-election this year and will focus what little time Senate business allows me to campaign and fulfill my responsibility of putting forth my record of service and accomplishment to the citizens of Utah."
Moss Friday congratulated his opponent for finally "seeing the light," but said Hatch waited too long to make a choice.
"He's the last official to take a stand on these initiatives, which is typical because the junior senator is well-versed in finger-in-the-wind politics," Moss said. "I've been opposed to the initiatives since announcing my candidacy - at a time when that position was difficult.
"I have four children in public school here, so I had to take an early stand against the tax initiatives. I'm pleased that Ted Wilson and other Democrats joined in. It proves we are willing to place Utah's future above political expedience."
Moss said it's "ironic" that Hatch announced his opposition to the initiatives shortly after a newspaper poll indicted they were losing popularity among the voters.
"I (also) think he had to take a stand because I put him on the spot during our first debate and because he needed to do whatever he could bo boost Norm Bangerter's sagging campaign," Moss said.
But Hatch said it was only after thoroughly studying the initiatives over the last few months that he concluded "they may jeopardize our ability to provide quality education and basic services. I am concerned that they go too far. For this reason, I am presently planning to vote against them."
The senator admitted his decision was not an easy one.
"Frankly, I would have supported these initiatives if they would not have jeopardized our state's ability to meet the basic needs of our children and the public in general," he said.
Hatch reiterated his support of Gov. Norm Bangerter's "Responsible Tax Limitation Plan."
"I think it is a big step in the right direction. If anything has become obvious over the last few months, it is that Utahns need more responsible tax relief," he said. "I hope that relief comes at the state and local level, and I intend to do everything within my power to see that it takes place at the federal level."