Utah's attorney general has been asked to decide whether a technicality could spoil efforts to place tax-limiting initiatives on the ballot in November.
But supporters of the initiatives say the state is "grasping at straws" in an effort to keep people from cutting taxes.Lt. Gov. Val Oveson said Thursday that supporters of tax limitation originally prepared about 4,000 petitions with up to five pages attached to each. The packets were numbered by his office.
Now that the petitions have been signed, Oveson said, he is getting them returned with 40 or 50 pages attached.
"What we're interested in knowing is if that is legal and proper or does it void the petitions," Oveson said.
He has asked Attorney General David L. Wilkinson to determine if the petitions have been spoiled. The large packets are coming from Salt Lake and Weber counties, Oveson said.
But Greg Beesley, chairman of the Utah Taxpayer Coalition, which is supporting the petitions, said such practices have been acceptable in the past. He has been involved in nine petition drives since 1973, he said.
"If they can't beat us fair and square they're going to try to get us on a technicality," Beesley said.
Supporters of the petitions had until mid-June to submit at least 63,000 signatures to county clerks throughout the state. The clerks have until Tuesday to verify the signatures and give them to Oveson.
Oveson said he has until July 27 to verify and tabulate the petitions and decide whether they should appear on the ballot.
Deputy Attorney General Ralph Finlayson has been assigned to respond to Oveson's request. He said Thursday the matter probably ought to be decided by a judge.
"It's premature for me to make any comment about the matter at this time," he said. "But this may be the kind of question a court should decide because of the implications and the wide interest."
Opponents of the initiatives would have to file suit in order for a judge to rule on the matter, he said.
Officials said the state is concerned about the petitions because the individual signature sheets are not labeled as to which petitions they belong. Supporters of the petitions could have taken signatures belonging to one petition and stapled them to another, they said.
However, that probably would result in duplicate signatures that would be detected when the petitions are verified.
The petitions call for property taxes to be limited to 0.75 percent of the market value of a house and 1 percent of the value of commercial property. They also call for the state's income tax to be rolled back to its 1986 level, and they would grant tuition tax credits to parents with children in private schools.