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Organizers confident they’ll meet the signature requirement for tax reform referendum

(Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Will the tax referendum be on this year’s ballot, or not?  People organizing the petition drive to get it on the ballot have until five this afternoon to submit their signatures to local county clerks, and they’re confident they’ll get enough.

As of Friday night, state elections officials say there were over 39 thousand valid signatures that were verified.  (Another update was scheduled to happen Tuesday morning.)  To get the referendum on the ballot, supporters need to collect nearly 116 thousand by this afternoon.

Petition drive organizer, Fred C. Cox, says the state’s number are way off.

“We’ve got counties that have well over 200% of the required number of signatures,” he says.

As of Monday night, referendum supporters estimate they were close to having 112 thousand following a large surge of signatures over the weekend.  Cox says he’s especially encouraged that their signature failure rate is so low.

He says, “I’m liking the fact that we’re losing fewer signatures because they’re looking at what has been submitted.”

Cox believes recent efforts to sway people against the petition may have backfired.

“Somebody, recently, put out some ads to try and encourage people not to.  What happened?  We had more people come because they were reminded, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got to sign that thing,’” he says.

The main criticism against the tax reform is the increase on sales tax, which would have a big impact on the cost of things like groceries and gas.  Cox believes most voters would rather keep last year’s sales tax rate rather than give low-income families a grocery tax credit.

“How does giving the money back at another time [help]?  You need the money, right then.  The tax affects you, right then,” Cox says.

However, critics of the referendum say there is a lot of misinformation about the new tax code.  Senate leader Stuart Adams tells The Deseret News the reform significantly lowers the income tax rate, increasing the take-home pay of most Utahns.