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RAP tax has few foes

But Proposition 2 may not be shoo-in for arts, recreation proponents

Proposition 2 on the Davis County ballot is drawing little opposition, but it may not be a slam dunk for the proponents of the recreation, arts and parks (RAP) proposal.

Both sides of the issue have put up few signs around the county promoting their position, although 4-by-8-foot signs in favor have appeared in Centerville, Clearfield and Layton this week.

The RAP tax would raise sales tax in the county by one-tenth of 1 percent to fund arts and recreation programs. Emma Dugal, programs coordinator of the Bountiful Davis Arts Center, said the measure is desperately needed by the county's arts organizations that struggle every year to fund their budgets.

"It's a great solution to a huge problem," Dugal said. "It's not just for artists and arts organizations; 55 percent of the tax will go to recreation programs and 45 percent for arts programs. It works out to be about one penny for every $10 spent in Davis County, a very small amount."

Visitors to the county will help fund the county's recreation and arts programs with their spending, Dugal said.

Not all see the measure as a good one, however. Mike Jerman, vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said the RAP tax is a bad idea for several reasons. "First, it's a tax increase for activities that are not critical, like public safety, education and transportation the private sector doesn't provide. It's a tax increase and our state and local taxes and fees are third-highest in the nation."

Utahns spend nearly $3 billion a year on public education, which provides many recreational and arts programs, Jerman said.

"As far as this tax increase being small, most tax increases are advertised as being small and then creep up through the process of incrementalism, which is why Utah has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. Taxpayers should be insisting on tax cuts, not tax hikes," Jerman said.

Don Wilhelm, co-chairman of the group pushing the RAP tax, said he doesn't believe the one-tenth of 1 percent tax increase, if approved, would or could be increased under state law. Also, the law has an eight-year sunset provision so if Davis County residents are unhappy with the tax and its benefits, they could vote it out in the future.

Jerman said sales taxes, being regressive, hurt lower-income residents more than others because they spend most of their incomes on taxable purchases. "Recreation spending by state and local governments is significantly higher in Utah than the national average. It's 57 percent more as part of the total personal income that's taxed," Jerman said.

Wilhelm sees arts and recreation facilities as places that bring people together and build community. "I look at RAP as a gift to ourselves. It's an opportunity for us to designate funds to go to items that are really the heart and soul of the county. We'll continue to have good parks and see a stabilization of arts organizations."