The proponents of two tax-slashing initiatives are in for a fight.
The Board of Governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday calling for the defeat of the ballot initiatives when voters go to the polls in November.David Gillette, chairman of the chamber's Tax Initiatives Subcommittee, presented the resolution to the board. He said proposed limitations would result in a $168.9 million loss in state taxes and a total $345.7 million state tax revenue loss for state and local governments and public and higher education.
If the tax limitation is approved, Gillette said vital programs such as Medicaid and public education would suffer immensely. For example, public transportation would be cut by $25 million, kindergarten programs by $29 million, adult education by more than $3.9 million and school lunch by $8.9 million.
"These figures do not include the multiplier effect when funds are lost," Gillette said.
Lt. Gov. W. Val Oveson said proponents of the two petitions, the People's Tax and Spending Limitation Amendments and the People's Tax Reduction Act, will most likely obtain enough signatures to put their initiatives on the ballots in November.
The People's Tax and Spending Limitation Amendment proponents want property taxes limited to 0.75 percent of the fair- market value for residential property and 1 percent of the fair-market value for commercial property. The People's Tax Reduction Act would roll back the state income, sales, gasoline and cigarette tax increases passed by the 1987 Legislature.
In order to place the initiatives on the ballot, proponents must obtain 63,946 signatures from 15 Utah counties. Oveson said 11 counties have already qualified, and four major counties - Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Weber - are still checking the signatures.
"I suspect that they will get enough signatures and they will be on the ballot," Oveson said.
Fred S. Ball, Chamber of Commerce president, said if the proposals are approved, higher education will be one area that will suffer dramatically. He said if the
initiatives pass, the State Board of Regents is considering measures such as merging Weber State College and Utah State University, combining Southern Utah State College and Dixie College to eliminate one campus and closing Snow College in Ephraim.
In addition, Ball said, if state taxes are cut, lawmakers will turn to business to make up for the shortfalls. "Every (egislative) session, we fight the battle that corporate taxes are too low in Utah. When they start looking for new revenue, they will turn to businesses. Every business, small and large, will be impacted."
Ball said if voters went to the polls tomorrow, the initiatives would most likely be approved. "The petition gatherers ask people if their taxes are too high, but they do not explain how it (he rollbacks) will affect them."
He said the Taxpayers for Utah Committee has been formed to educate the public about the impacts of the tax rollback proposals.
Former Govs. Calvin L. Rampton and Scott M. Matheson, Gov. Norm Bangerter, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted L. Wilson and Salt Lake County Commissioners Michael Stewart, Bart Barker and Dave Watson are among the members of the committee.
They will be making television appearances, along with several prominent Salt Lake business people, to encourage voters to reject the initiatives.
W. Mack Lawrence, a board member, said the committee doesn't have much money to pay for the advertisements and encouraged people against the rollback initiatives to contribute.