Most Utahns want their taxes rolled back to 1986 levels and a lid placed on their property taxes, a new Dan Jones & Associates poll shows.
Leaders of the tax limitation movement, who are gathering signatures on initiative petitions for November's ballot, are pleased with the poll results.Those against the tax cuts say their side of the story hasn't yet been told, and that when the results of those cuts are made known, most citizens will oppose the petitions.
In a poll conducted April 21 for the Deseret News and KSL-TV, Jones asked if respondents favored or opposed reducing the sales, motor fuel and income taxes to 1986 levels. Fifty-eight percent favored the tax rollbacks, 14 percent opposed and 28 percent didn't know. Asked if the residential property tax should be capped at 0.75 percent of fair market value and all other property taxes at 1 percent of fair market value, 62 percent said yes, 28 percent said no and 10 percent didn't know.
Jones asked the same questions in May 1987, just two months after the Legislature and Gov. Norm Bangerter approved the tax increases. In the May poll, Jones found that 62 percent of those questioned wanted the taxes rolled back and 63 percent wanted the property tax capped.
Tax limitation leaders say they have 75,000-80,000 signatures already gathered on the petitions. They need 63,000 signatures of registered voters by the June 13 deadline - that's 10 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election. Of the 63,000 valid signatures, 15 of the 29 counties must have 10 percent of their registered voters on the petitions to make them valid.
Greg Beesley, chairman of the Utah Tax Limitation Coalition, said while "we have between 75,000 and 80,000 signatures, after taking out the number that traditionally are invalid, we only have 56,000 good signatures and only 14 counties" with 10 percent of the voters. "We need one more big push to get us over the top. Our people can't quit or we lose."
If 63,000 signatures are validated, the petitions will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot and will become law if approved by a majority of voters.
Speaking about the poll, Beesley said, "It looks very good for us, if we can get on the ballot."
Standing against the tax-cutting movement is Taxpayers For Utah, a group chaired by former Democratic governors Calvin Rampton and Scott M. Matheson, former Republican State Senate leader Warren Pugh and former Sen. Wallace Bennett, R-Utah.
Taxpayers For Utah have "brought out their big guns, but that committee hasn't moved the public. They're treading water, they're not advancing," Beesley said.
Matheson said he isn't surprised by the poll results. "First, the survey was taken soon after income tax filing deadline, and nearly all citizens are upset about taxes this time of year. Second, the questions asked are little more than asking people if they would like to pay less taxes, without explaining any of the negative aspects of such cuts. Finally, at this time only the tax protest side of the story has been told to the general public. We've found that in smaller groups, where the devastating effects the initiatives will have on all aspects of the state's economy and government services have been explained, support for the initiatives quickly vanishes," Matheson said.
Said Pugh, "Naturally, we're disappointed (at the poll) that there isn't more factual information out there for the people to make up their minds on."
Matheson added that if the petitions are put on the ballot, his group will make a major push this summer to show voters what the cuts really mean.
House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy, who opposes the tax-cutting petitions, says he'd like lawmakers in a summer special session to place some kind "of an escape valve" measure on the ballot.
Do you favor or oppose limiting residential property tax to .75 percent of fair market value and all other property taxes to 1 percent of fair market value?
Strongly favor 27 percent
Somewhat favor 31 percent
Somewhat oppose 7 percent
Strongly oppose 7 percent
Don't know 28 percent
Do you favor or oppose reducing the sales, motor fuel and income taxes to 1986 levels?
Strongly favor 38 percent
Somewhat favor 24 percent
Somewhat oppose 14 percent
Strongly oppose 14 percent
Don't know 10 percent
Sample size: 904; margin of error plus or minus 3 percent