Facebook Twitter



Every Utahn will find something to disagree with in the state voter information pamphlet, since the 40-page guide to the November ballot questions contains arguments both for and against the tax initiatives.

And even the 1,000-word explanations that preface each of the three initiatives, labeled "impartial analysis," are expected by their author to raise the ire of some readers."I hope we've been as impartial as we could be, but if someone's looking for problems, he'll probably find them," said Richard Strong, director of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Voters will be able to scrutinize the pamphlet next month, when some 800,000 copies are distributed through daily and weekly newspapers, state offices, libraries and polling places. Printing and distribution will cost the state $95,000.

Besides Strong's explanations, the pamphlet will offer opinions signed by former Gov. J. Bracken Lee, who supports the tax initiatives; former Gov. Scott M. Matheson, who opposes them; longtime taxpayer watchdog Jack Olson; and several legislators.

Those responsible for writing the pros and cons were selected by Lt. Gov. Val Ove-son, whose office is responsible for compiling the pamphlet. Some of the statements were drafted by the organizations the writers represent.

"The arguments we're hearing now in the media by politicians are so simplistic that anybody who really wants to know what's going on needs to get a copy of this and read it," Oveson said.

The lieutenant governor, though, agreed that the pamphlet will not please everyone on either side of the initiative issue. "I'm sure there are those who will be dissatisfied," he said.

It's not that Strong and six members of his staff didn't try to be as objective as possible. Strong said that they spent weeks rewriting and re-checking their explanations before the pamphlet was sent to the printers.

The toughest explanation to write, Strong said, was for the initiative that would limit property tax rates and government growth. His first effort was 2,200 words, more than double the allotted space.

The explanation that will appear in the pamphlet for the so-called Initiative A does not include the amount of money the measure would cost state and local governments.

Although the Utah State Tax Commission estimated the initiative's impact at $185 million, the explanation raises questions about how to interpret such terms as "uniform and equal rate of taxation" and "fair market value."

Olsen, the head of the Utah Taxpayers Association, stated in his 500-word argument for the property tax limitation initiative that the amount collected would fall by only about $80 million.

Rep. Franklin Knowlton, R-Lay-ton, however, countered in his 250-word rebuttal that the actual cost would be at least twice as much under the current law and called Ol-sen's interpretation a mistake in the petition.

The explanation for the tax initiative that would roll back increases in the income, sales, cigarette and gas taxes approved by the 1987 Legislature also does not agree with the Tax Commission estimate.

While the Tax Commission placed the cost to government at about $141 million, the explanation prepared by Strong set the total at about $4.5 million more.

Former Utah Gov. J. Bracken Lee stated in the argument for the so-called Initiative B that services would not necessarily have to be cut if the initiatives are approved.

"The rollback would force improved efficiency, more cost-effective ways of providing services or revised priorities," according to Lee's argument.

Matheson's reply included comments of concern over the effects of cutting services as a result of the initiative from a variety of organizations including the AFL-CIO, the PTA and the state Chamber of Commerce.

"These are leaders who have to answer your questions about what tax cuts will do to you," Matheson's argument maintains. "They know these tax cuts will cripple Utah for years!"

Sen. Bill Barton, R-Salt Lake, wrote on behalf of the initiative that would give parents of children in private schools a tax credit, while Sen. Haven J. Barlow, R-Clearfield, opposed Initiative C.