Referendum timeline bill defeated
A bill was defeated in the Utah Senate Monday that would have allowed Summit County voters to vote on a tax increase the same year as the Truth in Taxation hearing if a petition is passed to halt the tax.
"I’ve been going back and forth trying to make this work," S.B. 265, Referendum Amendments, sponsor Senator John Valentine said. "The whole goal of S.B. 265 was to be certain that we got a chance to vote in the same year that the Truth in Taxation hearing was occurring. I haven’t been able to get all those things to work out, and frankly, we’re out of time."
S.B. 265 would have changed the required time periods for a referendum petition.
"The problem with our statute now is that we have a disconnect between the time we file a protest and the time voters actually get to have a say on it," Valentine said. "In effect, a limited number of citizens can lock up a budget for two years and the city cannot have any type of Truth in Taxation hearings or any tax matters while they have this lock up."
The bill compressed time frames from the time the final Truth in Taxation hearing is held until the time the county clerk certifies a petition’s signatures.
"It’s calculated in such a way, that it allows the vote to occur in the year of the Truth in Taxation hearing," he said. "So the voters actually have a chance to have their say on the issue in the very year of the filed protest, rather than having to wait two years."
However, because counties are required to hold two Truth in Taxation hearings, the second hearing being halfway through the year the increase goes into effect, counties would have benefited less from the bill, as they would have wait until after the second Truth in Taxation hearing to vote.
Petitions successfully halted two Summit County tax increases last year, but not until the county had spent money from the expected increases.
the time the petitions were certified, it was too late to put the measures on the 2012 ballot. The next general election is 2014.
"It doesn’t help us a lot," Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said about the bill. "It might shorten the cycle for circulating petitions, but I don’t know if that’s our issue. We would like to realign the whole thing so that we didn’t have to go halfway through the year before we find out whether there is a petition."
Jasper added that calling a special election that fewer people vote in doesn’t make sense for the county.
"The right thing to do in terms of voter participation is to wait two years, but in terms of needing the money, that is a long way," he said.
Although counties must wait until after the second Truth in Taxation hearing to vote, Jasper acknowledged that the bill could have benefited the county by allowing them to vote directly after the second hearing instead of having to wait two years.
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