With Utah enjoying a continuing robust economy and several years of state budget surpluses, Gov. Leavitt's plan to reduce taxes makes sense.

But the $30 million tax cut proposal he unvieled Monday probably won't make the average citizen stand up and cheer.That's not neccesarily bad. It's easy for politicians to throw tax relief at the people who vote and who have the most influence. The poor often are left out. Leavitt's proposal, however, would grant relief to low-income families.

He would extend a food sales-tax credit for families earning less than $20,000 and individuals earning under $10,000. He also would offer $1,000 tax credits to people who care for a foster child or a disabled person at home.

These are cuts intended to help the people who need them the most, and that is good. The question is whether they go far enough in a state where annual budget surpluses are measured in the hundreds of millions.

But when it comes to middle-income workers, the cuts offer precious little. Leavitt is proposing a manufacturing income-tax credit for businesses that buy either new or replacement equipment, but that is to take the place of a sales-tax exemption on new equipment, which he intends to repeal. He also wants to add a health-insurance deduction for people who are self-employed.

However, most Utahns this year are concerned about one tax only - property tax. The healthy economy has dramatically increased real estate values, and many county assessors have fallen behind in cataloging those increases.

In recent weeks, the state Tax Commission has issued factoring orders that will dramatically increase the assessed value of residential property in 25 counties. In Salt Lake County, those increases will range from 22 percent to 27 percent.

While those increases won't translate into tax bills that increase by the same percentages, they will likely lead to higher tax bills for property owners - for no other reason than that the market has driven up the value of their homes.

Leavitt's budget plan does little to alleviate property-tax fears. His plan would impose a county-option relief measure for people whose property taxes increase by 10 percent in one year due to reassessments. Counties would be empowered to extend payments on that increase over five years, interest-free.

That hardly qualifies as tax relief. The homeowner still would have to pay the full increase, albeit spread out over time. A better solution would be to make state lawmakers subject to the same "truth-in-taxation" law that keeps counties from reaping windfalls due to real estate inflation. The law requires counties to lower their tax rates to keep tax revenues constant each year. However, the state doesn't have any similar restrictions when it sets the Uniform School Fund - a fund that often comprises half of a homeowner's total bill.

The governor, long a critic of federally imposed mandates, is, in effect, trying to push the property-tax problem onto the counties, and he has given them a tool that would reduce their own revenues from year to year.

As for the rest of Leavitt's budget proposal, he would change the state's construction emphasis from buildings to highways and ask colleges and universities to find better ways to utilize existing space. That seems prudent, given traffic congestion along the Wasatch Front. He also has proposed the largest education budget in state history, with an added emphasis on instruction using modern technology.

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His crime proposal targets the juvenile system, which has been inadequate to handle the rise in youth crimes. Although he would change the way juvenile offenders are considered for trial as adults, resulting in an unwise flood of youthful offenders in the adult system, his plan will, in the aggregate, help law-enforcement statewide.

These programs and points of emphasis are important. However, given the current political climate, most of the attention in coming months will naturally focus on tax cuts. In a way, that is unfortunate. The state's perpetual surpluses are due in large measure to tight spending limits imposed on state government. Those limits have left many needs unmet, needs the governor's budget tries to address.

Still, taxpayers are in need of some relief. In his public release of the proposal, Leavitt emphasized his intention to work with state lawmakers and to compromise on which taxes to cut.

That means Leavitt's plan probably will undergo a lot of changes before lawmakers pass a final budget. What he offered Monday leaves a little to be desired but is a good start to the debate.

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