The group promoting Utah's tax initiatives has pulled out of a statewide televised debate because it feels the prepared questions would make them look like "bad guys" and "dumbbells," said the group's chairman.
"The majority of the questions were `When did you stop beating your wife' type of questions," said Greg Beesley of the Tax Limitation Coalition. "All of the questions were embarrassing to our side."The Utah League of Women Voters began making preparations for the debate since the beginning of September, said chairwoman Di Allison. Audiences in eight cities from Logan to St. George were to be linked with KUTV's Salt Lake studios, where a moderator and a panel of tax initiative proponents and opponents would answer questions about the initiatives from throughout the state.
The league has taken a position against the two initiatives that would limit property taxes and rollback 1987 taxes imposed by the Legislature. But Allison said her organization wanted to provide a fair, unbiased forum to inform the voters about the initiatives that will be on November ballots.
"For over 60 years our first priority has been to increase informed citizen participation in the political process. We are proud of our experience and credibility in providing public forums that are fair and non-partisan," she said.
"But Mr. Beesley doesn't feel he has an advantage going in," Allison said. "It (the program) should just be an opportunity for both groups to present people from both positions who could best articulate the discussion and inform the public."
Allison said the prepared questions were questions that have been raised by the public concerning the initiatives. For example, she said such questions asked opponents and proponents what public services would be cut or affected and asked if there was enough waste in government to match the decrease in tax revenue.
"We felt like they were salient questions. I really think the public is owed more than that," she said.
"All we're asking for is a level playing field. They (League of Women Voters) wanted to tilt it about 90 degrees in their direction," Beesley said. "The league has taken a stand on the petitions and bias came through about 1,000 percent."
Beesley said he could not recall any specific questions that were offensive.
Allison said Beesley told her there was no room for negotiations with the league and said her organization has abandoned the project. She hopes that since the league has withdrawn, the Utah Taxpayers Coalition will participate in some sort of televised debate.
"I think it would have been a great program. I'm a bit surprised that they (Tax Limitation Coalition) don't want to take advantage of our forum to air their side," said KUTV managing editor Brad Remington.