Those opposed to the tax-limitation petitions are taking their fight to the political party caucuses Monday night, hoping to impress some of the most politically active Utahns.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties agreed to allow distribution of a one-page letter from the leaders of Taxpayers For Utah former Democratic governors Scott M. Matheson and Calvin L. Rampton and former GOP officeholders Sen. Wallace F. Bennett, R-Utah, and state Sen. Warren Pugh, R-Salt Lake.The letter asks caucus-goers to vote against three initiative petitions now being circulated by tax protesters. It says that should the petitions become law, they will cut $350 million from state and local government budgets. The letter goes on to outline what Taxpayers For Utah believes are the serious consequences of such revenue cuts.
Greg Beesley, chairman of the Utah Tax Limitation Coalition, the group pushing the petitions, said the action doesn't surprise him. He expected the worst from his opponents.
"It is a very deceitful action," Beesley said. The letter and its envelope make it appear that the antitax limitation effort has party support, he said. "Tax cutting should be discussed in the caucuses. But this just shows that the parties are up to their old tricks," Beesley said.
GOP State Chairman Craig Moody said that is not the case, and that Republican officials will go to great lengths to ensure that those attending their caucuses don't get the impression that the Republican Party opposes the tax rollbacks.
"We take no stand at all on the initiatives as a party. None whatsoever. The letter won't be read. It will be placed alongside other campaign literature from candidates in the caucuses," Moody said. He added that Beesley's group is "more than welcome to have literature at the caucuses also."
The tax protesters have been disgusted for some time about the way their cause has been treated by the Republican and Democratic hierarchies. Beesley and his supporters searched for months in an attempt to find some Republican to challenge Gov. Norm Bangerter, who suggested the 1987 tax increases in the first place, this year. Beesley's group now supports the independent candidacy of Merrill Cook for governor.
In their letter, the former government leaders say the initiatives mean an end to the career ladder teacher-pay program, a freeze on any new spending for school supplies, an increase of two-to-three students in each school class, a 30 percent increase in college tuition and cuts in Medicaid benefits. (See related story on B1.)
"Nothing but misinformation, false, false, false," said Beesley. "And the parties are contributing to the dissemination of this misinformation."