By Howard Stephenson, Association President

After seven years as vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, Royce Van Tassell has accepted a position as executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. He will start that position full-time on October 1.

The vice president position has been a launching pad for other Utah community leaders, including Howard Headlee, who left to take the helm as President of Utah Bankers Association; Greg Fredde, who headed Utah Mining Association and is now an executive at Merit Medical; Wes Quinton, who took a government affairs position with the Utah Farm Bureau followed by Duke Law School, and is now a practicing attorney; and Mike Jerman, who is Legislative Director for Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

Members of the Legislature frequently turn to the Taxpayers Association’s vice presidents to understand the principles of sound tax policy and the nuances of applying those principles amidst competing pressures. During his tenure with the Association, Royce helped eliminate the August “Truth-in-Taxation” hearings for calendar year taxing entities, and was part of the coalitions that passed the “Save Our Secret Ballot” and severance tax trust fund amendments to the Utah Constitution. In addition, he has been a strong advocate for fixing Utah’s broken transportation funding mechanisms at both the state and local levels.

Despite the Great Recession, during Royce’s time with the Association the Utah Legislature did not follow the pattern of many other states by increasing sales, property or income taxes. In fact, the 2010 cigarette tax hike was the only general tax hike the state Legislature adopted since Royce joined the Association in 2007.

Royce evaluated dozens of bond proposals in communities from St. George to Richmond and from Delta to Blanding. In some cases where the need was undeniable, such as Washington School District’s school bond, the Association endorsed the proposal. While the Association’s position did not prevail in all those campaigns, during the past seven years your Taxpayers Association has won far more ballot issues than it lost.

Royce helped educate state and local elected officials about the costs to taxpayers and businesses when government gets into the business of business. Those discussions have included campaigns regarding UTOPIA, municipal recreation centers, public golf courses, hotels and many other projects that are best privatized. Royce has become one of the nation’s leading experts on the financial performance of municipal telecom systems like UTOPIA and iProvo.

As Senate sponsor of Utah’s original charter school law passed sixteen years ago, it gives me comfort to know that the Charter School Association will be headed by someone as eminently qualified as Royce. Charter Schools have grown over the past sixteen years to where they now educate 10% of Utah’s school children. While the Taxpayers Association will miss Royce’s talents, we wish him well in his important new position.