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Low-profile but significant measures on Nov. 6 ballot
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Big decisions loom on Nov. 6 beyond who will be the next president or member of Congress. State trust funds for severance taxes, tax exemptions for military personnel and potential changes in county governments also could be significant for Utah residents.

For example:

• Utah voters should be aware of two proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

• Wasatch and Grand county residents should know that balloting could begin a process to change their forms of county government.

• Summit County voters will decide whether to tamp down the county manager's powers.

• Residents in Cache County and Tooele city will decide if they should continue to fund cultural and recreational amenities through sales tax.

• In the wake of a controversial power plant proposal in Kane County, Kanab voters will decide whether the city must gain majority support of voters before approving coal hydro-gasification power plants there.

Amendment A • If passed, constitutional Amendment A would require a portion of the revenue from all of the state's severance taxes on natural resources, excluding severance tax revenue used for Indian tribes, to be deposited into a permanent state trust fund beginning July 1, 2016.

Sponsors of the measure, state Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful and state Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, say investing a portion of Utah's natural resource revenues will provide funding for future generations.

Such revenues rise and fall as commodity prices and extraction activities fluctuate. Nielson and Hillyard contend that spending all of the state's severance tax receipts when revenues are up leads to program cutbacks when revenues decline.

Eventually, revenues from nonrenewable resources will disappear, they say. If Utah hasn't invested any severance tax revenues, future generations will do without such funding.

By contrast, state Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, maintains such an amendment would permanently reduce Utah's ability to address economic downturns when the state could be forced to raise taxes or cut in services.

In 2008, voters approved the current constitutional language that guides such revenues. Litvack noted that currently, public officials have the power to make decisions about the appropriate balance between Utah's current and future needs.

Further, the state already sets aside some revenue generated from natural resources, which are deposited in the Permanent Trust Fund. Litvack contends they will grow substantially as oil and gas prices rise in coming years.

Amendment B • A second proposed measure, constitutional Amendment B, would authorize creation of a property tax exemption on the primary residence of a person in the military. To qualify, that service member would have to have served in active duty out of state for at least 200 days in a calendar year or 200 consecutive days.

The exemption would cover only the service member's property taxes for the year following the year they are deployed.

The sponsor, Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, said the measure is a small token of thanks to those Utah service families. "This benefit is well targeted, intelligently designed, and long overdue," she said.

If passed, constitutional Amendment B would result in a decrease in revenue for any local government taxing entity that contains such property, according to the website vote.utah.gov. The local government would be able to recover any year's decrease in revenue by raising the overall property tax rate within its boundaries.

Wasatch County • In Wasatch County, voters can decide whether to appoint a committee to study potential changes to the council-manager form of government, where the seven-member council appoints the manager.

Petitioners sought to have the manager become an elected position, said County Clerk Brent Titcomb. However, if such a committee were to be appointed it could suggest other forms of government, he said.

Grand County • A similar measure is on the ballot in Grand County. In 1992, it changed from a commission to a seven-member council. But, unique to Utah, the council is nonpartisan and has term limits — two four-year terms. Not least, it gives citizens a recall option.

County Councilwoman Audrey Graham said she believes petitioners sought the ballot measure to change the nonpartisan aspect of the council.

Summit County • In Summit County, voters will weigh in on Proposition No. 1 that, if passed, would require the county manager to seek approval from the County Council for the disposal of real property in excess of $500,000.

Proposition No. 2 on the Summit County ballot, if passed, would require the county manager to get County Council approval for the settlement of all land use claims in excess of $500,000 and to keep the council informed on the status of lawsuits against the county.

The measures are adjustments to the county government, which changed from a commission to a five-member council in 2008, said County Councilwoman Sally Elliot. The items have not been controversial, she said.

Cache and Tooele • In Cache County, residents will be asked if they want to re-authorize the so called "RAPZ" sales tax, equivalent to 1/10th of 1 percent, to fund recreation, arts, parks and zoos.

Tooele city voters will have a similar choice. They will vote whether to reauthorize a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax to fund cultural facilities, cultural organizations, and recreational facilities.

Kanab • In Kane County, Kanab voters can weigh in on a ballot measure that would create a city ordinance to regulate approval of coal hydro-gasification plants. If Proposition 1 passes, city official would have to get voter approval before allow such electricity facilities. Last year, a citizens group sued the city after it approved a zone change to allow such a plant. A second group, called Kanab Cares, petitioned to get the proposition on the ballot.

csmart@sltrib.com

Online More voter information

O Voters can see sample ballots and get more information on ballot measures at > http://www.vote.utah.gov.

Election • Utah voters to decide 2 constitutional amendments, tax issues, arts and parks funding.
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