Don’t Let Donald “I just kiss them, I don’t even wait” Trump and Hillary “Under FBI investigation. Twice” Clinton Get You Down. There’s Still Plenty to Vote For November 8

Don’t Let Donald “I just kiss them, I don’t even wait” Trump and Hillary “Under FBI investigation. Twice” Clinton Get You Down. There’s Still Plenty to Vote For November 8

pot flagDonald v Hillary: Maybe the Mayans Were Right is still ongoing and getting weirder by the day. I don’t know if that’ll cause low turnout because we hate these two or high turnout because not voting is a sin and we don’t want to answer for that when the world ends November 9.

Regardless, those of you who are voting should do so armed with information about the rest of the stuff on your ballot. I’ll mostly stick to the down ticket stuff here because of the statewide races the Democrats either put up joke candidates or no candidate at all. Welcome to Utah, where primaries matter. With a week or so to go Gary Herbert is up 30% in the gubernatorial race and Mike Lee up 40% in the Senate race. Sean Reyes doesn’t even have an opponent for Attorney General. Frugal Dougal has done an amazing job and he and Damschen will win in cakewalks in their Auditor and Treasurer races. Of the four House races the closest is the Mia Love vs Doug Owens rematch and after winning by 5 points two years ago it looks like Love will double that margin this time around.

Which is rather surprising. In a year where Republicans nationwide are down on their presidential ticket, and Utah so much so they’re considering giving an independent candidate electoral college votes for the first time since the 60s, Democrats still aren’t getting within a sniff of winning statewide races or congressional seats. They were excited to see Donald Trump win the GOP nomination, but they have failed to do much with the advantage.

Anyway, on to the ballots. To see yours, go to vote.utah.gov, click on the Voter Info/Track Ballot tab and type in the requested info. From here you can find your polling location, see who your current elected officials are, and view your sample ballot.

There are three state constitutional amendments on the ballot this year. They were all passed by the legislature by at least a 2/3 margin to make it to the ballot. Click on the little green plus sign and then the link under the header to read what the amendment supporters and its opposition have to say.

Amendment A:

Booooring. This amendment changes three words in the oath elected officials take when they get in office. Instead of saying they’ll follow the “Constitution of this state” they’ll say they’ll follow the “Constitution of the State of Utah”. This is so controversial there was no opposition argument submitted. Vote yes and move on.

Amendment B:

This one’s a little trickier. Some quick background is in order though. The state of Utah has something called a State School Fund. When Utah was made a state, the federal government granted us land to be used to support public education. Any money made from that land – whether from land sales, mining, grazing or timber sales – goes into this fund which is then invested and earns income. The principal of the fund can never be spent, but the interest and dividends on the investment can. This fund’s creation and maintenance is in the Utah Constitution, which is why changes made to it require an amendment.

Amendment B would change the constitution to allow the state to spend any earnings from the fund, rather than just interest and dividends. The fund’s investments earn income other than just interest and dividends, so this change would allow the state to use all forms of income generated. The change would give the state an additional $22 million in its first year.

To ensure the fund will keep growing, the amendment institutes a cap on how much of the income can be spent in each year. The cap is 4% of the value of the fund. So if the fund’s income increases by 9%, just 4% can be withdrawn and the rest remains in the fund.

It took me a bit to mull this one over because I wanted to get the facts straight. I’ve served on a school community council and I love the idea of giving them more money to spend on their local school but I was worried we’d be letting the principal be spent or otherwise making the fund less stable. It doesn’t. Amendment B makes reasonable changes that both protects the fund while increasing funds local communities can use for education. Vote yes.

Amendment C:

Amendment C has to do with what’s called personal property tax. This is different than the property tax you pay on your house. Personal property is equipment you use in your business. The government gets a piece of that too. So mechanics and handymen are taxed on their tools. Your cubicle walls at work? Taxed. That big printer/copier/scanner down the hall? Taxed. If you own it and make any money doing it, the government will tax it. One exception is if you lease that printer or front end loader. In that case the leasing company pays the tax.

Enter Amendment C. The amendment’s supporters say that when a government entity, like a city for instance, leases equipment the leasing companies are charging them the tax the company must pay. So one government is paying tax to another government, and supporters say that’s silly, creates too much paperwork, and causes some transparency issues. I have a feeling this is less a transparency problem and more a tax cut for leasing companies. According to proponents, the fiscal impact is small – a few cents extra to your tax bill each year to make up the lost revenue. But this is how bad tax policy gets started: a major cut for a few whose cost is spread over so many it’s easily dismissed. Vote no.

Alpine School District Bond:

For those of you fortunate enough to live in Utah’s most favored county, Utah County, many of you will have Alpine’s school bond on the ballot as well. Alpine’s last school bond was five years ago and passed with 57% of the vote. Based on surveys the district did this summer I have a feeling the vote tally will be similar this year as well, but this is one I’ll be following closely because as Utah’s largest school district I think there’s some latent desire to split the district up and carve out the older parts of the district from the new, growing part of northern Utah County.

The bond is $387 million and will be used to build a new high school in Eagle Mountain, middle schools in Lehi and Saratoga Springs, six elementary schools around the valley, and a bunch of renovations and safety improvements in schools across the district, plus the purchase of land in preparation for future new school builds. You can see details of the projects here.

The district has done a good job of paying off old bonds and spreading out the issuance of new bonds so even though this year’s bond is about $170 million more than the one five years ago it won’t raise property taxes. With a $70 million price tag for a high school and $40 million for middle schools the costs of building can induce sticker shock. However, per a 2008 state audit report Utah has lower than national average school construction costs and is even lower than our neighboring states.

Nobody likes taxes, and our system of warehousing kids in these big expensive schools bothers me. But there aren’t any solutions on the horizon to reform that system and in the meantime our kids need a classroom that’s not a trailer in the parking lot. Alpine school district has managed its bonding well over the last decade and is fulfilling its financial responsibilities to taxpayers and students. Vote Yes.

About author

Cameron Robinson
Cameron Robinson 10 posts

Cameron is a husband and father of five children. He's an accounting controller by trade who's been involved in politics for a decade.

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