After hearing more than a dozen state and local officials warn Friday of the consequences of tax limitation, members of a governor's advisory council agreed to invite the other side to their next meeting.
The wisdom of inviting the Tax Limitation Coalition to address the Utah Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations at its July 29 meeting was questioned by some members.One suggested that the organization behind three tax initiatives would likely get more publicity out of its appearance than the government officials who made their case against the measures Friday.
Suzanne Dandoy, executive director of the state Health Department, said the 31/2-hour-long meeting hadn't appeared to attract much attention beyond those who already oppose the initiatives.
But state Tax Commissioner Roger Tew said coalition leaders should have to confront the budget reductions outlined by a various local governments, school districts and state agencies.
Tew said the coalition's position has been that it is up to government officials to decide where the cuts called for in the tax initiatives would be made.
Opposition evaporated after Sen. Paul Rogers, R-Orem, said forcing such a confrontation could benefit the effort to defeat the initiatives.
"We have nothing to hide," Rogers said. "We have everything to gain by having the truth come out."
Council members also agreed to print up the numerous graphs, charts and long lists of programs that would be eliminated by the initiatives and distribute the information to an organization formed to oppose the initiatives, Taxpayers for Utah.
That suggestion came from Salt Lake County Commissioner Mike Stewart, who said that the group had little documentation to back its claim that the initiatives would hurt government.
The meeting marked the first time many of the effects forecast by government officials were made public. Statewide, passage of the tax-limitation initiatives would cut $349 million from government budgets, according to a presentation by Michael Christensen, executive director of the council.
Public schools and the state's higher education system would bear the brunt of the reductions, about $166 million total.
Representatives of the Board of Regents, the state Board of Education and two school districts described a wide range of effects should the initiatives pass, including limiting enrollment in colleges and universities, reducing the length of the school year and eliminating programs aimed at keeping borderline students from dropping out of school.
Representatives of city and county governments said that while some reductions would be made in administrative costs, most of the cuts would come from public services such as road maintenance and police protection.
Representatives from a sampling of state agencies said they may lose federal grants that require the state to put up matching money for highway improvements, health services, and other programs.
The three initiative petitions circulated among voters are in the hands of county clerks and Lt. Gov. Val Oveson's office to determine if enough signatures were gathered to place them on the November ballot.
The initiatives would limit property tax rates, roll back tax increases approved by the 1987 Legislature and give parents of children in private schools a tax break.