Few things have been more disappointing in the last 14 months of tax limitation effort than the attempt by limitation foes to use fear as a weapon against the public.
Most of us had hoped for a reasoned discussion of the issue, leading to a judgment by the people at the polls. What we are getting is quite different.We have been told that if the tax initiatives pass we will have to cut out kindergarten, programs for the handicapped, the U. of U. Chemistry department, have criminals roaming the streets, possibly close down two colleges, raise tuition 30 to 40 percent, and one particularly imaginative editor said we might even lose the deer hunt.
Each of these projected cuts is designed to strike right to the heart of a particular group of people. Judging from the amount of devastation predicted, one would think that state and local revenues were going to be at least cut in half if the initiatives pass.
The fact of the matter is that if both tax initiatives pass, total revenues (tate and local) will be cut by only about 6 percent. You read it right, 6 percent!
Few people who have been around more than a year or two think that cutting government spending by 6 percent would lead to a castastrophe.
That brings us to Taxpayers For Utah. This group of well-heeled former politicians, in league with so-called educators and others (ecently including Ted Wilson and Norm Bangerter), has launched one of the most rank and arrogant intimidation campaigns in memory.
Their approach is to use hypothetical cuts to scare various constituencies into opposing the tax initiatives. The effort has become so blatant that Senator Ivan Matheson of Cedar City, not a limitation supporter, has spoken out publicly against their tactics.
Sen. Matheson correctly points out that no one knows where the cuts will come if the initiatives are approved. He further says, what no one will admit publicly, that there is plenty of waste that needs cutting before cutting essential programs is even considered.
His views on waste seem to be borne out by recent scandals at the state Office of Education, which failed an operational audit of its some two hundred programs consuming million of dollars, and the Timp Mental Health Center $3.5 million dollars taxpayer rip-off.
Efficiency in our state government, which was given a stamp of approval by Operation Scope (ater admitted to be a planned whitewash) and is regularly touted by the governor and Taxpayers For Utah, has been placed in serious question by a recent survey performed by the Office of the Legislative fiscal analyst.
That office found that seven of the 122 state entities surveyed were not receiving financial audits. Twenty were not receiving compliance audits to determine if they were in compliance with state laws, and almost a third were not receiving operational audits to determine if they were accomplishing their tasks in an efficient and effective manner.
About 60 percent of those executing contracts for goods and services were not using a competitive bid process, a procedure that saves 25 percent off the top for the many private businesses.
Apparently we have an administration that doesn't know waste and scandal when it walks in the door and identifies itself.
Wasn't it an auditor who came to the governor with a story about mental health? The governor directed this brave soul to his chief of staff, Jon Memmott, who in turn sent him to a man he didn't want to see. Thus the allegations of misconduct were never investigated.
Now, the same Jon Memmott is the hired spokesman for Taxpayers For Utah and travels around the state telling people that handicapped programs will be cut.
It frankly is not hard to believe that the priorities of the present administration and those involved with Taxpayers for Utah are so distorted that they would cut what others consider to be some of the highest priority programs in our state before they would straighten out their own house.
My own impression of the mood of the people in the state is that they are tired of all the fraud, corruption, and waste. They are tired of being told to tighten their belt by those who administer this waste.
And they are tired of being taken as fools by those who built and now administer a government that doesn't even incorporate the most rudimentary cost and efficiency measures used by private business.
A 6 percent cut in revenues may be a catastrophe for the special interests who live off our taxes, but it will provide some well-earned relief for those who labor to pay those taxes.
(reg Beesley is chairman of the Tax Limitation Coalition of Utah.)