What had been the most loudly contested race of the 1988 campaign concluded quietly as both supporters and opponents of the tax initiatives acknowledged the measures had been defeated long before all the votes were counted.
Each of the three tax initiatives, which appeared on the ballot as A, B and C, was apparently defeated in every county. In many cases, the initiatives failed by more than a 2-1 margin.The three initiatives would have limited property tax rates and government growth; rolled back 1987 tax increases and lowered income tax rates; and given parents of children in private schools a tax break.
When all the votes had been counted, the property tax limitation initiative lost, 61 percent to 39 percent; the rollback initiative failed, 62-38; and the tuition tax credit was defeated, 69-31.
Satisfied that they had been successful, members of Taxpayers For Utah, the group formed to fight the tax initiatives, started leaving an election party at the Hilton Hotel shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
About the same time, supporters of the tax initiatives gathered at the Marriott Hotel began conceding they had failed in their effort to limit taxes through popular vote.
Their party did not break up until independent gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook, who had run at the urging of tax initiative supporters, conceded defeat about 10:20 p.m.
The initiatives were the result of a tax protest movement that began on the steps of the State Capitol in 1987, the year that lawmakers passed a record $165 million tax increase.
Frustrated taxpayers won the opportunity to put their proposals before the public by getting tens of thousands of voters throughout the state to sign initiative petitions.
Seeing their efforts fail Tuesday night only reinforced their anger at the political system, two leaders of the Tax Limitation Coalition said, vowing to continue their fight for tax limitation.
Greg Beesley, coalition chairman, and Mills Crenshaw, a radio talk show host, said initiative petitions would be used again to change the law to limit taxes and make other government reforms.
An initiative petition that seeks to prevent public employees from running for elected office and tax dollars from being spent on political campaigns, is already in the works, Beesley and Crenshaw said.
Two couples who drove from Ogden to Salt Lake City to be at the Marriott Hotel said the defeat of the initiatives would not deter them from working for tax limitation in the future.
"Absolutely not," said Bessie Wadsworth. "We'll work harder."
Wadsworth; her husband, Bob; and Fred and Pat Marlow, all said they were surprised at the failure of the initiatives. "Everybody I know, everybody I've talked to, had been positive," Bob Wadsworth said.> But insiders in both campaigns knew last week that the initiatives were likely to fail. A Deseret News/KSL-TV poll by Dan Jones & Associates showed all three measures losing by considerable margins.
The initiatives had strong support in the polls until recently. Opponents blamed the turnaround on anti-tax initiative materials they said were distributed through public schools.
"They had students and their parents scared out of their wits," Bees-ley said of the tactic, which has been disavowed by Taxpayers For Utah. "It went down from there."
Crenshaw said the coalition didn't have enough money to counter the distribution effort. He said the mostly small contributions from taxpayers were used to print some 265,000 copies of a brochure distributed in the last weeks of the campaign.
Although he has been talking about the tax initiatives on the air daily during his three-hour talk show, Crenshaw said the coalition was not able to reach enough voters.
Beesley said the coalition should have tried harder to woo business organizations, such as the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, before they came out publicly against the initiatives.
He said that an independent party being considered by Cook would help in future initiative drives by giving them a stronger base. Both he and Crenshaw said they do not foresee running for office themselves.
Opponents, including former Gov. Scott Matheson and several state officials, were gracious in their victory. One state official joked that they all had been warned against gloating in public.
Leaders of Taxpayers For Utah credited the win to what they have described as a grass-roots campaign that utilized the efforts of a wide variety of organizations, including prominent figures in both political parties.
Some said the deciding factor was the personal contact that representatives Taxpayers For Utah tried to make through passing out some 1 million brochures and pamphlets statewide door-to-door and at meetings where they had been invited to speak.
Others in the group said it was the overall campaign, which included pleas on television and radio by Matheson, Jazz Coach Frank Layden and Salt Lake County Sheriff Pete Hayward, that hit home with voters.
Pat Shea, one of the leaders of Taxpayers For Utah, said that whether the public tries to change the law through initiatives again depends on if they are brought into the political process.
The state's education officials said they have gotten the message sent by the initiative movement.
"All I can say is that we, in higher education, will work very hard to perform our role and do it as effectively and efficiently as possible," said Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr.
Dr. James R. Moss, state superintendent of public instruction said the voters "have made the correct choice." But he also said the education community has benefited from the harsh debate on the initiatives.
Educators must tell their story better to convince Utahns that they have a good system, he said.
University of Utah President Chase N. Peterson took the University's anti-tax limitation measures to various civic groups. He said the initiatives' defeat is "a loud statement that the state of Utah respects education," but added, "The twin battles for appropriate funding and self improvement are not over."