Davis County election hopefuls got a pep talk from a committee opposing passage of proposed tax limitation initiatives that may appear on the November ballot. The panel was organized by the Davis Board of Education.
About 40 candidates for the Davis Board of Education, the Davis County Commission and state legislative offices representing the county attended a meeting called by Citizens for Responsible Taxation. A poll of the candidates willing to respond indicates 27 were opposed to the initiatives, one was undecided and none favored the measures.The group heard presentations from Jon Memmott on the potential effects to state programs, from County Commissioner Harold J. Tippetts, on how the county would be effected and from Davis School District Superintendent Richard Kendell on how education would be affected.
Memmott, a member of Taypayers for Utah, told the group that attempts to compare the Utah proposals with successful tax rollback efforts in California and Massachusetts are not accurate. He said Utah's present tax structure is already lower than that achieved by the California and Massachusetts initiatives. He said the only thing the Utah proposals will accomplish is crippling services now provided by state and local government by cutting tax revenues by more than $349 million.
Memmott said legislators tried two years ago to do what the tax initiatives require, reviewing a number of budgeting moves to try to reduce the budget by between 6 and 8 percent. The lawmakers found the task impossible without unacceptably hurting services expected by the general public.
The impact on Utah would differ substantially from the other states because of differences in the population mix of the states. California and Massachusetts basically mirror national averages, while Utah has a significantly higher youth population that impacts education, and household sizes also are much larger, skewing per capita income comparisons.
Memmott said a comparison of current tax rates paints a more realistic picture. He said a home in Salt Lake City that generates $939 in property taxes would generate $1,580 in San Diego and $2,939 in Boston. One reason for this is that Utah's valuation system already takes 20 percent of the value off the top for residential property.
The success of California's famous Proposition 13 has been misleading, Memmott said, because California had a $4 billion surplus at the time of passage, and that money was used to reimburse cities and school districts at about a 95 percent rate to offset the tax rollback impacts.
That money is now gone, and the true effects of Proposition 13 are now being felt, putting many cities and school districts virtually on the brink of bankruptcy, Memmott said.
For Utah, the initiatives as proposed would almost wipe out road construction and maintenance - about 7,000 people would lose Medicaid benefits - and the basic support for education would receive a crippling blow, Memmott said. The threat to the state's infrastructure - its roads, buildings and water and sewer lines maintenance - is critical, Memmott said, because once the state falls behind in this area, it will be virtually impossible to catch up.
Tippetts agreed with the report on the infrastructure and urged restraint in implementing tax changes. He said the public would be better served by working closely with elected leaders to determine what kinds of services should be cut and what is an acceptable level of reduction. He said with those decisions made in a responsible manner, officials could move to cut taxes as desired.
Kendell said the proposals would mean a $17 million cut for the school district. He said various scenarios used for determining where those cuts would be made are frightening. He said a $1.7 million cut in handicapped services would just about eliminate the district's special education program. A $5.1 million cut in the basic program would mean a loss of about 450 employees, including teachers, bus drivers, janitors, food service workers and administrators.
Only Glen Hunt, a Libertarian Party candidate in Legislative District 16, spoke in favor of the initiatives. He said taxes are hurting family incomes, and people are having difficulty providing basic necessities. Although he spoke against taxes, he did not respond on the ballots seeking the candidates' positions.