Utahns don't like the idea of giving the horse-breeding industry a tax subsidy to keep it healthy and growing in the state, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 75 percent of Utahns don't want to subsidize the horse industry, 18 percent agree with at least a $200,000 yearly subsidy and 7 percent don't know.Horse breeders and their supporters have asked the Legislature this year for financial help. At first, they suggested pari-mutuel betting be legalized, with part of the purse going to help horse breeding.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took a strong stand against legalized gambling. The church asked Bud Scruggs, former chief of staff to Gov. Norm Bangerter, to lobby against the measure.
And Bangerter said he'd veto the pari-mutuel bill, if it passed. Faced with such tough odds, proponents - who have banded together under the title of Citizens To Put Utah First - switched tactics.
They asked House Rules Committee Chairman Dave Adams, R-Monticello, to sponsor their bill. Adams did introduce a pari-mutuel bill, but within a week he substituted that bill with one that sets up a horse-racing commission whose job, among other things, would be to oversee a special fund made up in part of taxpayers dollars. Adams' new bill does not legalize pari-mutuel betting.
Adam's fund would act like other economic development programs the state already has - that is, it would subsidize the industry with an eye toward keeping the industry in the state and bringing new activity in.
Legislators have given financial breaks to the aerospace industry and the diaper-making industry, among others, to entice them to move to Utah or expand operations here.
Horse breeders say that because there is no legalized gambling in Utah, fewer races are held each year and it is more difficult to draw attention to Utah horses. They argue that their industry is in financial straits, that thousands of Utah families depend on horse breeding and that the whole horse industry is a $1.5 billion economic engine in the state (a number that some opponents to the gambling bill question).
Scruggs says the LDS Church takes no position on Adams' new bill - the subsidy for the horse industry.
"That is a budget matter and the church has never gotten involved in the state budgetary process. Our concern is with gambling, it's a moral question. We have nothing against horse breeders, nothing like that. We support them. We just say they don't have a right to ask Utahns to legalize gambling - and all the social ills that it brings - to support their industry," he said.
But from the result of Jones' poll, it appears that at least some Utahns haven't yet drawn the distinction between gambling on horse racing and an economic development subsidy for the horse-breeding industry.
Citizens To Put Utah First is carrying a stick along with the carrot of Adams' bill. Leaders of the group say if legislators don't approve a tax subsidy for their industry, they'll work to place a pari-mutuel betting measure on the 1994 ballot through the initiative process, thus letting citizens vote directly on whether they want to legalize betting in the state.
Scruggs vows that if a pari-mutuel betting measure makes it on the ballot - it takes the signatures of more than 60,000 registered voters - the LDS Church will fight the measure.
Deseret News/KSL-TV Poll
Would you favor or oppose using $200,000 in tax money to help the horse breeding industry in Utah?
Don't know 7%
Sample size: 610
Conducted Jan. 7-8, 1992
Tolerated error -/+ 4%