The head of the group that got three tax initiatives on the November ballot by collecting the signatures of thousands of Utahns has warned legislative leaders not to block their implementation.
But a leader of the Utah House of Representatives said that lawmakers would not be "vindictive" about passing the legislation needed to impose the limitations placed on state and local revenues.In a letter to leaders of the Utah Legislature, Tax Limitation Coalition Chairman Greg Beesley said he had heard the leaders were planning to announce before the election that they would "give the voters exactly what they asked for" if the initiatives pass.
Beesley went on to say that the Legislature is already perceived as "an arrogant and unresponsive branch of state government," and that it was tax increases passed by lawmakers in 1987 that started the initiative movement.
One initiative would roll back those tax increases, another would set limits on property tax rates and government growth and a third would give parents of children in private schools a tax credit.
House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy, said that he had not yet received a copy of the letter but denied that the leaders of the Legislature ever intended to try and keep the initiatives from taking effect.
"If Greg says that legislators refuse to interpret the law, that's crazy. We're not going to substitute our judgment for the population if they vote for it," Karras said. "We're not going to be vindictive about it."
Karras said lawmakers have already received a long list of proposed legislation by their staff, that includes deciding how to interpret a reference in the property tax limitation initiative to fair market value. That decision alone could mean the difference between about $80 million in property tax cuts and $184 million.
That is an example of how tricky it would be for lawmakers to please the public with their interpretations of the initiatives, Karras said. Although supporters of the property tax limitation say it will amount to $80 million, opponents of the initiative place the cost to government at $184 million.
"If the public thinks they cut taxes by $184 million and we interpret it differently - that's seen as tampering," he said.
Beesley said that the issue of how legislative leaders would respond to a victory by the tax initiative supporter came up at a recent debate he did not attend. He said he did not know which opponent of the initiatives raised the issue.
He said that the letter was intended to urge the legislative leaders not to adopt an uncooperative position before the election, because although it might further efforts to defeat the initiatives, it would only compound the dissatisfaction the public has with government.