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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What if the answer is no?

By Lyle Hillyard
Senate Chair of Executive Appropriations

A great political axiom states, “Don’t ask the question until you are ready for the answer."

It appears to me that the greatest risk of rushing a complex issue - such as the recent mass transit initiatiove - to a sudden public vote this fall, is the likelihood people will just say “No.” It takes time to educate the general population about why they should vote for such a large tax increase (and that will probably be the focus of the vote, not that our transportation system needs additional money).

The citizens of our state know we have record surpluses. We have just taken a percentage of the sales tax off food and are trying to decide how to cut income tax. A constant theme I am hearing is, “Don’t raise taxes.” and “Use the current surplus to address urgent state needs.”

How are proponents going to overcome public skepticism on such short notice? I doubt they will get much help from those running re-election campaigns. I believe the resistance will be so great, they can’t sell it.

The danger is that once the people vote no, the answer is no.

A former mayor of Logan lost his bid for reelection, in part, because the city put the issue of funding a new golf course on the ballot and it failed. When he found another way to build the course, public reaction was, “How dare he fund this when the voters said no?” People vote “no” for many different reasons, but the cloud it creates over a project is dark and homogenous.

After reading the material sent by the 2015 Transportation Alliance, I was left with so many questions that I could not vote for the ballot initiative as proposed (if I lived in one of the affected counties). There has to be time to discuss, analyze, and shape the proposal so that instead of losing a year (there are local elections in 2007), we do not lose 10 years with the sting of a negative vote in one (or all) of the affected counties.

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