Gov. Norm Bangerter says his promise during the recent campaign to freeze property tax rates was more than just idle election-year talk.
But on Monday, the governor, facing county and city leaders who are opposed to the plan, said he wants to make sure the plan he presents to the Legislature is fair.Bangerter, addressing a committee of legislators and city and county officials who hope to reach a compromise on the plan, said voters sent a strong signal this year when they signed enough petitions to place three tax-limiting initiatives on the ballot. Voters soundly rejected those initiatives, but elected officials should not misinterpret the message that was sent, the governor said.
"I don't think we should interpret it as a mandate to spend," he said. "I think we should interpret it as a mandate to be frugal."
During the campaign, Bangerter proposed a six-point tax plan that he promised to carry to state lawmakers if elected. Among other things, the plan called for a freeze on property tax rates - a freeze that could only be broken by a vote of the public.
Bangerter's proposal was made partly in response to the tax initiatives, which would have greatly reduced property tax rates.
Counties and cities are concerned about the governor's plan because they rely on property taxes for much of their income.
"We want your cooperation to help write the bill," Bangerter said. "If we can't get the bill written, we should just put a moratorium on property tax increases until it is worked out."
Bangerter said the state will also look for ways to hold down spending.
Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Bart Barker said the county needs a new jail, which is likely to require a bond issue. Even if voters approve a one-time tax increase to fund the jail, the county will be in danger of losing its coveted triple-A bond rating, he said.