By now, only a hermit could be unfamiliar with at least the major arguments for and against the tax limitation initiatives that Utahns will vote on Nov. 8.
Our readers should also be well aware that, since this newspaper's owners remain neutral on the initiatives, our editorials opposing them reflect strictly the views of the Deseret News' publisher and editorial board.So, instead of rehashing the same arguments, let's focus on some of the more recent developments in the long dispute over the tax limitation initiatives.
- A few days ago, the impartial and highly respected Utah Foundation made this telling observation:
"After all of the changes that have been made in Utah's individual income tax laws over the past two years, the overall adjusted Utah income tax load in 1988 is slightly less than what it was before the changes were made."
The foundation's study goes on to note that there has been a marked shift in the tax load away from the poor and toward middle- and upper-income groups. Still, the adjustments that have been made to moderate the overall load should sap much of the impetus that the big tax hike of 1987 gave to the tax limitation drive. Moreover, Utahns can't assume that more such moderating adjustments won't be made.
-If tax limitation supporters aren't impressed by the long and growing list of highly responsible groups opposing the initiatives, the proponents ought to be given second thoughts by one of the latest organizations to join that list. It's the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants.
If the initiatives pass, the CPA group notes, the savings Utahns realize in terms of lower state taxes would be markedly offset by the resulting increase in higher federal taxes. Why? Because state taxes may be counted as a deduction on federal taxes. Consequently, a lower state tax bill means a higher federal tax bill. Then there are the many federal matching funds Utah would lose by lowering its own taxing spending effort. As one CPA puts it: "The guy who is going to cheer the loudest if these initiatives pass is Uncle Sam."
-Finally, consider the telling points made by the latest issue of the Utah Economic and Business Review:
First, "Utah's economic slowdown in the 1980's has nothing to do with Utah tax rates. Rather, it is a result of a downturn in Utah's goods-producing industries because of international and national economic forces."
That conclusion is confirmed by the October 31 issue of a major national magazine, Business Week, which notes that not just Utah but the entire Rocky Mountain is hurting simply because of the downtown in energy-related industries. And some of those neighboring states are hurting much more than Utah.
Second, "Utah's tax initiatives cannot fairly be compared to those of California or Massachusetts because of Utah's unique demographics and because the proposed initiatives go much farther and recommended cuts that are much deeper."
Third, Utah's public and higher education would receive a substantial part of the cuts imposed by tax limitation. As the Utah Economic and Business Review notes, "If all cuts were to be taken across the board, over 46 percent of the cuts would apply to education. If education is protected, then the other services of government would virtually have to take cuts of twice the size they would otherwise take."
Fourth, "there is virtually no statistically verifiable evidence that tax cuts bring prosperity by themselves. On the contrary, there is evidence that the cuts could hurt the economy when essential services are reduced significantly."
The conclusion is inescapably clear: Despite the good intentions behind them, the tax limitation initiatives would inflict some deep and lasting wounds. That's why Utahns have rejected similar plans before. We urge voters to go to the polls and defeat them again.