CACHE COUNTY – In a final push to gather enough signatures on a petition to contest Utah’s tax reform bill, organizers and volunteers across the state hope they have met the threshold.
Tuesday was the last day to collect 116,000 voter signatures divided proportionately among at least 15 of Utah’s 29 counties.
Cache County needed 4,560 signatures to secure its portion of the effort. Volunteer coordinator Craig Bowden believes they did it. He estimates close to 5,400 hundred signatures were collected during the last three weeks.
“I do know that our internal numbers (across the state) on Sunday were at 112,000,” he said. “Monday was a huge day. So we had to cover 4,000 to get to the 116,000. Cache ended up getting four to five hundred on Monday, and today we just had a massive amount of people, lines going all day.”
In addition to the hundreds of signatures from Cache County, Bowden said Weber and Box Elder counties came through with several thousand signatures of their own.
“We have two weeks to verify every signature in there to make sure they are a registered voter and the address is correct,” according to Cache County Chief Deputy Clerk Kim Gardner. “Then, we hand deliver those to the Lt. Governor’s office and they determine if they’ve got enough signatures statewide.”
Gardner said there was a steady stream of volunteers turning in signature books throughout the day Tuesday and while it was “crazy”, they will be able to handle the verification process.
“It is big,” she said. “Especially right now because we are doing other petitions at the same time and we’ve got candidates that are filing petitions for offices.”
Gardner added, “We’ve got enough help and we’ve called our part-time help in full time and we’ll get it done in two weeks.”
The effort to gather signatures began days after the Utah Legislature passed SB2001 during a special session in December 2019. The bill lowers the state income tax and offers tax breaks for low-to moderate-income residents. It also raises sales tax on food, gas and some services.
Because the bill failed to pass by at least two-thirds of the legislature, residents can challenge the law with a statewide referendum.
“It’s a definite sigh of relief,” admitted Bowden, who said he worked with 64 volunteers over the last several weeks.
“We had some stellar people,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone of those volunteers that gave up their time away from kids and spouses. I want to thank the people who were willing to grab their pens and put them down to paper and make a statement that basically, no taxation without representation. It’s kind of nice to see.”
If enough voter signatures are verified, the new tax law will go on a ballot in 2020 for voters to approve or repeal.
Republican leaders on Utah’s Capitol Hill insist the tax reforms are necessary to address structural imbalances that pay for essential government services.