SALT LAKE CITY — Organizers of a referendum to put Utah’s sweeping new tax reform law on the ballot are pleading with Utahns to sign their names to the petition ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.
“We have thousands of volunteers throughout the state at various grocery stores, at libraries, at any place that you can think of. They’re there, and they’re signing,” Fred C. Cox, a former state legislator, told members of the media at the state Capitol on Saturday.
“I don’t want anybody to stay home because they think that, ‘OK, they’ve got it,” he said, explaining that the 116,000 signature requirement has not been met.
Bob Harmon, chairman of Harmon’s grocery store chain, said the company got behind the referendum and has let advocates gather signatures in its stores because of the way the tax will affect families.
“All of these people are going to be affected by this legislation. Some are going to be affected deeply,” he said.
For low-income families, “increasing the sales tax on food puts them and others at risk of experiencing hunger. Even a modest increase in their grocery cost will simply mean they will buy less food,” said Gina Cornia, executive director of Utahns Against Hunger.
Cox said those behind the referendum don’t currently have an estimate on how many of the required 116,000 signatures have been gathered. The number is much higher than the nearly 40,000 so far verified by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s office, he said, though it’s not yet enough.
“But I can tell you that we’re optimistic, and I have been watching those numbers come in, and they’re really good,” Fred Cox said.
More than 16 counties are “over the top” in their requirements, Cox said, and he expects Salt Lake County to exceed its required 45,000 signatures.