Hoping to get in the last word on the proposed tax initiatives, opponents held a final press conference Saturday to convince Utahns that all three initiatives would have a devastating impact on the state's schools - and thus, children's futures.
This time the spotlight was on senior high school student leaders who accused protesters of caring more about their pocketbooks than their children. "It's very ironic that the people who support the tax initiatives know and care the very least about the possible consequences," said Thor Wixom, Timpview High School. "Yet come Nov. 8, they could possibly hold every child's future in their hands. I don't think it's fair that they should have more of a say about my future than I do."The gathering, at the home of former Gov. Scott Matheson, was the second anti-tax initiative movement this week by Utah students. On Friday, some 100 college students sponsored a rally at the State Capitol to warn of the damage the limitations would inflict on Utah's system of higher education.
But reports by the Utah State Board of Education indicate that public education stands to be hurt the worst by the tax initiatives because it is funded from both income and property taxes - both of which are targeted by limitation proposals.
Still, the tax limitations would affect different districts in different ways.
"We are taking a strong stand against the initiatives because we feel Alpine School District would be devastatingly harmed if they pass," said Debbie Jensen, Orem High School.
"Clearfield High School already lacks materials, teachers and has over-crowded schools and classes," said student body president Darron Carpenter. He expressed concern about students' ability to be competitive in applying for scholarships or in the work force if essential programs are slashed.
Foremost on Bonnie Adams' mind was the potential threat the initiatives pose to students' "mental, social and physical health."
Adams, Murray High School student body president, emphasized that extra-curricular activities, such as swimming, could be eliminated if the initiatives pass. "If there isn't that release, the students wouldn't have the support to be able to say `no' to drugs and negative peer pressure," she said.
"Where is the fat they (initiative supporters) claim needs to be cut when Utah is one of the lowest states in the nation in terms of the amount of money spent for students?" Wixom asked. "Do you think the teachers will stay in Utah when their class sizes are increased and their salaries lowered?"
Saturday's press conference was initiated by Taxpayers for Utah, whose more than 50,000 volunteers have spread anti-initiative messages.
"We are not claiming victory by any means, but we do feel good about the grass-roots support our cause has generated and the thousands of citizens who have helped educate their friends and neighbors about the negative aspects of the initiatives," Matheson said.
"None of us enjoys paying taxes, but we are convinced the initiatives go too far, and that is the message we have consistently delivered during this campaign."
Jim Jardine, another spokesman for Taxpayers for Utah, said one of the greatest parts of the campaign has been the bipartisan support against the initiatives.
"We believe the people are now informed about this issue and understand its consequences," the Salt Lake attorney said. "However, from time to time we hear people say that they want to send a `message.'
"We want to remind people that it's not the way to send a message to vote for a bad law that will come back to hurt us," he said. "The message of the need for frugality and efficiency in government and lower taxes and tax reform has been received.
"But these initiatives are definitely not the way to send that message."