The sound of "no more taxes," heard so loudly during last year's legislative session, is still echoing this year.
An overwhelming majority of Utah Taxpayers Association members oppose raising taxes to finance the hosting of the 1998 Winter Olympics, the expansion of the Salt Palace and the construction of a light-rail system in Salt Lake City, a survey by the group shows. In addition, the group is pushing the Legislature to pass a property tax limitation proposal.In January, the association surveyed its members on tax issues likely to be considered by the 1989 Legislature. The results showed that of the 800 respondents, 86 percent oppose a tax increase to enlarge the city's sports arena, 75 percent are against a one-quarter percent boost in sales tax to finance the Utah Transit Authority's construction of a light-rail system and 74 percent don't want to be taxed to bring the Olympics to Utah. However, because the current Legislature is not debating those issues, the association focused its attention on more pressing tax issues.
The greatest concern for members is property tax. Only 8 percent of those surveyed did not want the association to continue lobbying for property tax limitation.
"We are supporting the reduction of property tax as contained in the governor's six-point plan," said Howard Stephenson, assistant director of the association. Gov. Norm Bangerter has proposed to freeze property tax rates at current levels. "It's nice to see the governor advocate tax reduction and permanent tax limitation," he said.
The association has been lobbying the Legislature in behalf of its members on several bills. It is fighting against giving a sales tax exemption to ski resorts for capital investment. It sent a letter to Bangerter supporting his proposed budget, including a 3 percent salary increase for state and school employees.
The survey showed that 59 percent of the taxpayers association support the pay raise. Jack Olson, director of the association, said that he was surprised that members would support that. "I thought our members would say no to those increases."
As for taxes, Olson said he doesn't care what taxes are cut as long as taxpayers see some relief this year. Olson said he is "very pleased" with the Legislature and believes it is supportive of tax-reduction measures.
"Our biggest priority is to make sure taxpayers see something in the way of a reduction," Stephenson said.
The survey asked members to indicate their feelings toward various proposals in the Legislature. Members ranked restoring the Utah income tax deduction for federal taxes paid as the tax cut they prefer most. That was followed by cutting and freezing property tax rates and the removal of sales tax on food.
Stephenson said other tax reductions should come before a decrease in sales tax on food. "A general sales tax reduction would benefit everyone and our business sector," he said.
The majority of the association's 3,000 members are from small business. Corporate business and individuals make up a small portion of the association. According to the survey, members believe the level of taxation in Utah is the major hindrance to industry locating and expanding in the state.