Social service organizations from all over Utah gathered at the State Capitol Tuesday to encourage legislators to divert the tax surplus into social programs and reject proposed income tax reductions.
"We are all from different organizations in opposition of the same thing. We're afraid that they'll do what they set out to do - return $80 million of the tax revenues to the taxpayers," said Norm Riggs, executive director of the association for the mentally retarded."We feel the Legislature should not move at this point. They should wait until January to see what happens with the budget and tax rollback initiatives."
Gov. Norm Bangerter called a special legislative session to decide how to allocate the state's $110 million tax surplus. Bangerter proposed giving $10 million to public education, $20 million to a rainy day fund and returning the remaining funds to the taxpayers. He also suggested a 5 percent cut in state income tax rates and the approval of a one-third reduction in federal income taxes.
"If this is approved, we'll be right back in the '40s when there were no social service programs. Even the $250,000 cost of mailing the rebates to the people could be used to restore crucial programs that have already been cut," said Sandy Fink, a representative from the Crossroads Urban Center.
Protesters said the surplus is really tax revenue that proves essential programs have had their budgets slashed. They plan to stay at the State Capitol until they are "seen and heard" and a final decision is made.
"Bangerter has cut social services programs so extensively in the past 31/2 years that there is a revenue. We should not give the money back to the taxpayers until we have a picture of what will happen," said Norm Nelson, president of the Salt Lake affiliate of the Utah Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Protesters say the proposed income tax reductions would result in even more cuts in social service programs. "The changes in the income tax structure, at least as I understand the governor's proposal, would be ongoing tax cuts each year," said Bill Walsh, executive director of Utah Issues.
Walsh said the income tax reductions would cripple the state's economy and growth because a state that does not address human needs cannot develop economically.
Protesters are also concerned about the effects of two tax slashing initiatives. Proponents are calling for reductions in property taxes and roll backs in the state income, sales, gasoline and cigarette taxes.
The initiatives may be on the ballot in November, and protesters say Bangerter's proposal should not be considered until after the election.