The group formed to fight the tax initiatives is some $350,000 shy of what organizers had hoped to raise, money now needed to pay for a final media blitz before the Nov. 8 election.
All but $50,000 of the $250,000 donated by members of Taxpayers For Utah, including employee organizations, businesses and individuals, has already been spent gathering information on voters and printing campaign materials.At least an additional $100,000 must be raised quickly to pay for television, radio and newspaper advertisements tentatively scheduled to start running later this month, according to Phil Mettra, Taxpayers For Utah's campaign manager.
Despite the lack of money for an extensive media campaign, the battle against the tax initiatives is going better than expected according to recent polls, Mettra said.
The latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates shows that support for each of the three initiatives has declined, although more respondents still favor the property tax limitation initiative than oppose it.
The three initiatives that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot will limit property tax rates and government growth, roll back sales, income, cigarette and gasoline tax increases passed by the 1987 Legislature and give parents of children in private schools a tax credit.
Mettra credited the turnaround to the type of low-cost, grass-roots campaign that Taxpayers For Utah was forced to turn to by lack of funds. Members of the PTA and other volunteers have been going door-to-door, handing out copies of brochures printed by Taxpayers For Utah. So far, the organization has run only four days of radio advertising.
"It's paid off. I'd rather have a brochure in somebody's hand than a 30-second spot," he said. "This is a complicated issue, and there are only certain things you can say in a 30-second ad and still get your message across."
Still, Mettra acknowledged that opponents of the tax initiatives still have a real battle on their hands with the property tax initiative. Although support for the measure, Initiative A on the ballot, is eroding, Jones found that 46 percent of those polled said they would vote for it compared to 44 percent who would vote against it.
To win that battle, Mettra said Taxpayers For Utah is producing commercials this week with the message that the tax initiatives go too far and detailing their effects on education, public safety, and road construction and maintenance. The commercials and newspaper ads will feature an as-yet-unnamed spokesman described only as "credible" by Mettra.
Money to pay for the advertising is being solicited from area businesses and individuals. "We are turning over every single rock out there to find another dollar to two," Mettra said.
Taxpayers For Utah has not received any large donations since August, when leaders of the organization reported receiving almost $168,000 from a variety of groups including local media outlets, Utah Power & Light and other businesses. Other groups boosting the organization's bank account were the Utah Public Employees Association, the Utah Education Association and other public employee groups.
Since then, money has come in mostly in small amounts from area businesses, Mettra said, adding that a recent mailing to a wide variety of groups will probably only raise enough money to cover its $10,000 cost. He said he hopes to convince potential donors that despite the promising polls, many voters will not make up their minds until just before the election.