Owners of small businesses generally support three tax-limiting initiatives on the November ballot, but they won't speak out for fear it will hurt business, according to an initiative proponent.
Howard Stephenson, assistant director of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said business owners are afraid initiative opponents will boycott businesses that favor the tax cuts.But Pat Shea, an attorney and member of Taxpayers For Utah, which opposes the initiatives, said no one would be boycotted for speaking in favor of the cuts.
Shea, however, accused tax-cut supporters of using strong-arm tactics by broadcasting threats over a local radio talk show hosted by a leader of the initiative drive.
Speaking Monday at a debate sponsored by the League of Utah Consumers, Stephenson and Shea disagreed over the effects of Initiative A, which would reduce and limit property taxes and government growth. Shea also opposes initiatives B and C, which would reduce income and other state taxes and grant tax credits to parents whose children attend private schools.
Stephenson, however, said he had not yet decided whether to support B and C. But Stephenson strongly endorsed a reduction in property taxes, saying it would benefit owners of small businesses.
"Business leaders say privately that the tax initiatives are their only hope," Stephenson said. "They don't want to come out publicly and get bashed."
However, he also accused big businesses of working hard to defeat the initiatives.
"The corporate mentality is one that fears change in government and change in the delivery of government services," Stephenson said. "I can't explain fully why the corporate mentality opposes these things."
Shea said corporations oppose the initiatives because they are used to dealing with billion-dollar budgets and understand that "the world is more than just simple mathematics."
"If you see fat in government, there's a ready-made solution called participation," Shea said, adding he thinks the initiatives are for people too lazy to get involved in government.
Shea said local radio talk-show host Mills Crenshaw has used threats and scare tactics against people who oppose the initiatives.
"You want to talk about fear, talk about Mills saying he will have 20,000 callers down people's throats," Shea said.
Stephenson accused governments in Utah of being out of control.
"There's no end to the good things they want to spend money on," he said. "We just can't afford all these good things."