Maybe it was the World Series, or maybe it was just because everybody's had their fill of all the rhetoric, but a debate on the tax initiatives didn't attract a lot of attention Thursday.
Representatives from city and county government and a school board were there to blast the initiatives, and the three central proponents of the cuts were there to tell voters why they should approve them, but only about 50 people were there to listen. That's a lot compared to some government meetings, but hundreds of people attended a similar debate in Provo in September.The sparse crowd did not stifle the enthusiasm of the speakers, though.
Jan Lewis, Alpine School Board president, said administrators are already running a lean district, and if the initiatives pass, education would be devastated.
"We have very, very limited funds. We keep balancing our budget on the backs of our employees over and over again," she said. "We're making very good use of our funds. We want to be responsible to the public and we try to do that. There is no way we can take those kinds of cuts without stripping our programs to death."
Lewis said the district could lose up to $10.4 million, 13 percent of the total budget. Possible cuts include career ladder, kindergarten, transportation and drivers education.
Initiative supporters question the figures government officials use as examples of consequences. Independent lieutenant governor candidate Lee Allen said during the debate in the Orem City Center that the issue is broader than simple cuts.
"I don't think this is clearly a tax issue. What this really boils down to is whether government exists to serve the people or whether people exist to serve the government," Allen said. "We have a burden on the people (in Utah) that is killing business, that is driving people out of the state and is causing our children to have to go to other states to find work. This initiative will put the power back in the hands of the people."
Allen said tax cuts will vitalize the economy and lift a burden from citizens who are smothered by government bills.
Utah County Commissioner Malcolm Beck said county government would lose about $4.1 million, a price tag that would cost residents some important services.
Greg Beesley, who had a hand in creating the initiatives, called them the "finest budgetary restriction measures that have come to the state of Utah in the last 20 years."
Orem Mayor Blaine Willes showed up at the debate, which was sponsored by the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce, to tell voters city services now cost them only about $53 a month.
"The budget is not fat. People get services at a bargain price," he said. "Our city will be severely damaged if the initiatives pass."
"The government of Utah is out of control," said initiative advocate Mills Crenshaw. "Many, many times the people of Utah have asked the state Legislature to please listen to them. It's your future and ours that's at stake."
One resident, Bob Peterson, asked the panel why tax opponents don't fight against wasteful government projects rather than looking for across-the-board cuts.
"We have missed the boat completely in this tax business. Why haven't they cut the stupid pork barrel projects like CUP?"
The three proposed initiatives, which will be on the November ballot, would limit property taxes, roll back tax increases approved by the 1987 Legislature and provide tax credits to the parents of children attending private schools.