Candidates, 2 amendments face early voting next week
Voters who have already made their minds up about how they'll cast their ballots can move to the head of the line as early voting begins in Carbon County Tuesday. The county courthouse is the only polling place for this first phase of the 2012 elections.
Polls open at 9 a.m. and will close at 4 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 26. From Oct. 29 through Nov. 1, the polls will be again be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Friday, Nov. 2, the hours will be 9 a.m. To 5 p.m.
Voters will have to bring ID before they'll be allowed to cast ballots. Those with some form of government- issued picture ID, such as driver's license, passport, or carry-concealed permit, will need only that one item.
There are more hoops to jump through for those without picture ID. They will have to provide two different forms of ID, such as utility bills, birth certificates, Social Security card or car registration. The combination of documents should basically furnish proof of identity and legal residence. There is a whole list of acceptable IDs on the state's website, http://vote.utah.gov/early-voting/identification/ .
Amendments for saving, 'shared sacrifice'
In addition to the candidates, voters will also have to choose yes or no on two proposed amendments to the state constitution.
Amendment A, which passed by overwhelming majorities in the state House and Senate last session, would mandate that a portion of the state severance tax on oil, gas and minerals be deposited in a special trust fund. Withdrawing money from the fund would require a super-majority (three-quarters) of the House and Senate and the governor's signature.
As things now stand, state law says only a portion of severance tax in excess of about $105 million goes into the trust fund. Amounts under that go into the general fund, which pays for routine government operations. The constitutional amendment would bind the state to this formula for contributions to the fund: 25 percent of the first $50 million of severance tax collections, 50 percent of the next $50 million, and 75 percent of all revenue over $100 million.
The argument for the amendment is basically that oil, gas and minerals are not going to last forever. When production declines or stops, the severance tax will follow suit. By building an interest-bearing fund over the years ahead, the state will have an asset that keeps on producing revenue.
The argument against is that the amendment would tie the hands of the legislature in budgeting, and would reduce contributions to state coffers by about $36 million starting in 2016.
Amendment B would grant property tax exemptions to members of the Armed Forces who serve more than 200 days out of state in any given year. The implication is that the loss of revenue caused by the exemption will have to be made up by other taxpayers in the school districts, cities and counties. The impact amounts to about a dollar a year on a $250,000 house, or $8 a year on a $1 million business property.
Sen. Luz Robles, sponsor of the resolution the passed both House and Senate approval, calls it a "shared sacrifice."