After sitting through a morning of debate on the state's most controversial tax-related issues, those attending the 11th annual conference sponsored by the Utah Taxpayers Association made their positions known.

The 200 or so participants said they would vote to hold the 1998 Winter Olympics in Utah but not for money to create a fresh-water lake out of a portion of the Great Salt Lake.They also favor the new Jazz arena to be built downtown and Salt Lake County's plans to renovate the Salt Palace but not the way the 1989 Legislature dealt with tax limitation.

Most of them were small-business people, with just 26 percent of the participants polled at the $20-per-person conference held Thursday at the Little America Hotel listing themselves as government employees.

The morning began with a discussion of how lawmakers responded to the tax limitation movement, which was behind last year's failed tax initiatives generally opposed by all levels of government.

Dale Hatch, director of the state Office of Planning and Budget, outlined Gov. Norm Bangerter's tax limitation plan that was ultimately approved by lawmakers.

Howard Stephenson of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a self-appointed tax watchdog organization of some 3,000 businesses, said the only problem with the plan is that it is based on state spending in a year of high taxes.

There were few questions from the audience about the tax limitation issue, but a discussion of a proposal to build a three-mile dike across the Great Salt Lake to create Lake Wasatch prompted a lot more interest.

Rep. Stanley Smedley, R-Bountiful, detailed the $90 million project, noting that it would take a vote of the people to spend any money under a plan approved by the Legislature last session.

Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart countered that, because the project will be overseen by a group appointed by the governor, there is no real accountability for how money is spent.

Judging by the strength of the opposition to the new lake, Smedley was unsuccessful in convincing the audience that the investment would likely pay for itself in increased tourist and recreation spending.

Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller, however, managed to win a round of applause for his plans.

Miller is spending $45 million for an arena large enough to hold 18,500 fans, and the 1989 Legislature approved giving the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency the authority to raise the remaining $20 million.

Salt Lake County Commissioner Bart Barker described some of the plans the county has for remodeling the Salt Palace to accommodate larger conventions as well as building a new science center to house the Hansen Planetarium.

He did not volunteer the cost of renovating the Salt Palace but, when pressed by a member of the audience, said it is estimated to be between $40 million and $45 million.



Utah Taxpayers Association poll

Do you agree with the manner in which the Legislature has dealt with tax limitation issues?

Yes- 42 percent

No- 58 percent

How would you describe Utah's manner of dealing with business?

Unfriendly- 42 percent

About right- 52 percent

Too friendly- 7 percent

If a vote were held today on whether to bond and tax to construct Lake Wasatch, how would you vote?

For- 19 percent

Against- 64 percent

Undecided- 18 percent

If a vote were held today to decide whether Utah should host the 1998 Winter Olympics, how would you vote?

For- 71 percent

Against- 16 percent

Undecided- 13 percent

How do you feel about the plans for a new Jazz Arena and the proposed disposition of the old Salt Palace arena?

Favor- 85 percent

Oppose- 7 percent

Undecided- 8 percent