by Howard Stephenson
Utah Taxpayers last Friday recognized four distinguished Utahns for their service to taxpayers. At its annual Utah Taxes Now Conference, held April 30 at Little America Hotel, the Association presented recently retired Utah Farm Bureau CEO Booth Wallentine with its Lifetime Service Award, retiring State Senator Bill Wright with its Excellence in Public Service Award, Representative Jim Ferrin with its Taxpayer Advocate of the Year Award and State Senator Curtis Bramble with the Taxpayer Advocate Award for Exceptional Achievement.
Senator Curt Bramble Receives 2004 Taxpayer Advocate Award for Exceptional Achievement
The Utah Taxpayers Association’s twenty-five year fight for bond election reform came to an end last Monday afternoon, and taxpayers won big when the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of SB115. The Legislation, which is one of the biggest taxpayer victories in recent years, restricts bond elections and other special elections to the November general election and the fourth Tuesday in June, which is a primary election date in even numbered years. This ensures a much higher voter turnout than special elections held in February, May, and August. With increased voter turnout, small special interests groups will no longer exert disproportionate influence on bond election outcome.
Leading the charge on this important taxpayer bill was Sen. Curt Bramble of Provo. Sen. Bramble is a highly accomplished and well respected CPA and tax practitioner and is respected by his legislative colleagues for his thorough understanding of issues, even though he is still in his first term as a state senator.
Bramble’s reputation for tenaciously and successfully sponsoring legislation was evident this session. Before the session even began, he arranged meetings with city, county, and school officials to convince them not to oppose the bill. He even traveled to St. George on his own nickel to meet with local leaders attending the convention of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
During the legislative session, Sen. Bramble secured passage of SB115 by persuasively defending the merits of the bill and refuting the objections to the election reform measure.
However, Bramble’s fight on behalf of taxpayers was not over with legislative passage of the statute as Governor Walker, like her predecessors, vetoed the bill. Having to deal with unfounded and baseless accusations from the editorial pages that attempted to override the veto of SB115 were motivated by political concerns instead of policy concerns, Bramble worked with legislators in both houses and both parties to secure the needed votes to override the veto.
Next Tuesday, one school district and two cities will be holding elections to determine the fate of bond proposals totaling more than $75 million. Voter turnout will most likely be very low, perhaps even less than 10%. Starting this November, however, these low-turnout elections will be a thing of the past thanks to Sen. Bramble’s efforts.
Representative James Ferrin Given 2004 Taxpayer Advocate Award
The recipient of the Taxpayers Association’s 2004 Taxpayer Advocate award is Representative James Ferrin. He was specifically recognized for his success in getting legislation passed in last fall’s special session and again in the general session to ensure that proprietary informatioin disclosed by a business in property tax filings remains confidential. If this legislation had not passed, Utah’s property tax system would have come to a grinding halt, not to mention the adverse effect publication of this information could have had on the Utah economy.
Representative Jim Ferrin has served in the Utah House of Representatives since January 2001. He represents House district 58 which includes Orem, Lindon, and Pleasant Grove.
Rep. Ferrin is a Certified Financial Planner. His professional position gives him a powerful and unique perspective on government issues and service.
Rep. Ferrin has introduced fresh ideas in legislation – some have passed – some haven’t yet. These include a reduction of our capital gains tax rate, tuition tax credits, charter schools, and budget reform designed to prevent budget deficits that would limit future appropriations to current budgets rather than to higher forecasted future revenues. Jim has fought for equity funding for Charter Schools and has been a pioneer in education funding reform.
Over the last four years Representative Ferrin has developed a well–deserved reputation as a defender of individual property rights and of individuals and families engaged in commerce and industry. He is a vocal and persuasive advocate for private enterprise, for efficiency in government, and for lighter tax burdens on citizens. This year the Taxpayers Association honored Representative Ferrin for his work passing legislation which protects sensitive proprietary financial data contained in property tax filings. Rep. Ferrin’s clarity of presentation and thorough preparation ensured passage of this important legislation in both the general and special sessions.
Lifetime Service Award Presented to Farm Bureau CEO Booth Wallentine
Booth Wallentine was raised on an Idaho cattle ranch just north of the Utah border. He seemed to have agriculture in his blood from birth. He received a degree in agriculture economics at Utah State University. Following his service in the Army he worked in several positions in the Utah and Iowa Farm Bureaus. In Iowa he was the voice of agriculture in radio and TV, providing a weekly radio commentary which was also printed as a column in numerous Midwestern newspapers and was honored by the Freedom’s Foundation at Valley Forge. He was anchor for Mutual Broadcasting System reports from the American Farm Bureau conventions.
With the influence of former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, in 1972 the Utah Farm Bureau board of directors asked him to return to Utah to become the state administrative officer, a post he held for nearly 31 years, becoming the senior state administrator in the American Farm Bureau. In addition to his Farm Bureau work, he has been busy in the community, including vice chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, president of the Utah Council on Economic Education, co-founder and president of the National Mormon Pioneer Trail Foundation and chairman of the Interior Department’s historic trail commission. He was a member of the Utah Vocational Education Advisory Board and several other education committees. Booth also served on the Board of Directors of the Utah Taxpayers Association from 1977 to 1980.
He was a member, then chairman of the board of trustees at Utah State University, which honored him with the University’s Distinguished Service Award. He was the first inductee into USU’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. He was named Future Farmers of America Farm Leader of the Year and was co-founder and treasurer of the Utah Future Farmers of America Foundation. He was named “Friend of the Cattlemen,” “Friend of Utah Wool Growers,” and received the USU Extension Leadership Award and several other awards.
Under Booth’s leadership, Utah agriculture achieved the Greenbelt property tax law and sales tax and property tax exemptions on agricultural equipment. He helped to coalesce the various parties interested in advancing multiple use of public lands and also helped build bridges between agricultural land owners and the various wildlife groups.
It has been said by many that Booth Wallentine has done more for Utah agriculture than any person in the history of the state. He declined numerous opportunities and offers to work elsewhere for prestigious national business organizations.
Senator Bill Wright Receives 2004 Excellence in Public Service Award
State Senator Bill Wright was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 1988 and to the Utah State Senate in 2000, representing his mostly Utah County constituents for sixteen years in the Utah legislature.
During his first election campaign, Wright sent a mailer to voters stating “Bill Wright believes that government cannot do everything for us. We must create an environment in our society where individuals have ultimate responsibility for their success and the success of society.” Sixteen years later, taxpayers can say that Sen. Wright has not strayed from his original commitment.
Sen. Wright’s voting philosophy is based on sound government, economic, and constitutional principles and his experience as a successful businessman. House Speaker Marty Stephens has described Wright as the conscience of the legislature because of Wright’s commitment to consistent, principled leadership.
Wright has been a strong supporter of education reform, and as a businessman, he understands that competition yields a better product. Wright was one of the first vocal supporters of tuition tax credits and charter schools, even at a time when legislators were afraid to publicly state their support for these reforms.
Bill Wright was also one of the key legislators who pushed for tax cuts during the 1990s, understanding that lower taxes lead to higher long-term economic growth and acknowledging that individuals and businesses know how to spend their money better than government does. He has also supported sound tax policy principles such as exempting business inputs from taxation and promoting competitive equity.
Sen. Wright is not seeking reelection this year since he is moving his dairy out of the district. We will miss his support of taxpayers.