While it may seem as if the tax-initiatives campaign has been going on forever, there have been other attempts to get tax limitation before the voters and other ballot issues that pitted taxpayers against the establishment.
Veterans of those efforts have brought lessons learned the hard way to the current campaign. None of the citizens' drives to set limits on taxes has yet succeeded.And a seemingly non-controversial attempt to alter the state's Constitution to make non-profit hospitals tax exempt went down to defeat after a loosely organized group of taxpayers demanded to be heard.
Leaders on both sides of the current campaign do not like to draw too many parallels to their past failures. But they acknowledge that some of their tactics, as well as the strategies they expect from their opposition, are familiar.
One of the initiatives appearing on the ballot Tuesday was circulated among voters in 1986 by the Utah Taxpayers Association. The initiative fell some 10,000 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.
"This 1's for U," was the slogan used to sell then what is now Initiative A, which would limit property tax rates and government growth. Backers hoped support would come from Utahns angry over property reappraisals in late 1985 that hiked taxes as much as 30 percent.
It wasn't a lack of anger but a lack of time that kept the petitions from qualifying for the 1986 general-election ballot, according to Jack Olson, head of the Utah Taxpayers Association.
The timing was much better in early 1987, when still-frustrated taxpayers rallied at the state Capitol to tell lawmakers, "No more taxes," and the Legislature passed the largest tax increase in the state's history.
With more than a year instead of just a few months, the movement generated by those protests got the property tax initiative on the ballot as well as two other initiatives that would roll back the tax increases, lower income tax rates and give parents of children in private schools a tax break.
The effort received invaluable assistance from a daily radio talk show hosted by Mills Crenshaw, one of the founders of the Tax Limitation Coalition, which circulated the initiative petitions.
"They had that voice on the air every day," Olson said. "That was a voice we had not had. I think that was the determining factor. They didn't let people forget that they were mad."
KTKK radio, better known as K-TALK, also played a role in the defeat of Proposition 1 in 1986, which would have amended the state Constitution to guarantee that non-profit hospitals would be exempted from taxes.
Shortly before the general election, a small band led by a Salt Lake tile setter started discussing the issue on K-TALK. A station official suggested thatthey increase their exposure by demanding access to other broadcast media.
Citing the Federal Communications Commission's Fairness Doctrine, the group debated on one channel and received free time on two others in proportion to the numerous paid commercials airing in favor of the ballot question.
Greg Beesley, chairman of the Tax Limitation Coalition, said he used the same tactic to get free time on KTVX Channel 4. He said KUTV Channel 2 and KSL Channel 5 both turned down his request.
KUTV attorney Pat Shea, a leader in the group formed to fight the tax initiatives, said that the station's news coverage had already presented both sides fairly.
Consultant Michael Leavitt, who headed the Proposition 1 campaign and is also working to defeat the tax initiatives, said there is a vast difference in the amount of the interest the general public had in the two issues.
But he acknowledged that the hospital issue pitted what was viewed as a well-heeled campaign on behalf of the establishment against a grass-roots effort by average citizens.
That's an image the anti-tax initiative group, Taxpayers For Utah, has carefully avoided and one that the Tax Limitation Coalition has tried to emphasize.
"It was very important that this campaign never become taxpayers vs. tax-raisers," Leavitt said. "We have been very careful to build a coalition of peoplewho are not campaigning in their own self-interest."
That meant that the participation of groups such as the Utah Public Employees Association, which gave Taxpayers For Utah at least $20,000, has been downplayed, while the role of the PTA has been highlighted.
Beesley said he believes the public, too, is learning from its experiences with initiative movements and ballot questions. He said Utahns are becoming more skeptical of the leaders behind challenges to what he termed populist movements.
Beesley said that skepticism translates into more votes every time a citizens' group attempts to use the initiative process to legislate or take issue with others' efforts to change the law through the ballot.