by Howard Stephenson
Last Friday the Utah Taxpayers Association recognized three community leaders for their exemplary service to the taxpayers of Utah.
With 20/20 hindsight, Utahns seem to be universally pleased with our hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The Utah Taxpayers Association supported the hosting of the games since the bid process and suffered considerable criticism for that support. But three years ago many of us seriously wondered if Utah had made a mistake in winning the Olympic bid.
At that time the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games faced a budget deficit of $400 million. In addition, a scandal had paralyzed the organization and made several sponsors want to disassociate themselves from the Games. At that point, it looked highly unlikely that the $59 million repayment to the state and localities for their sales tax diversion or the promised $40 million endowment to the Utah Athletic Foundation would ever be paid. It was also uncertain whether the Games would need to be rescued in some form by Utah taxpayers. Arguing had begun over whether the City of Salt Lake or the State of Utah would be left holding the bag for the legal liability of cost overruns.
Now, three years later, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games were a complete success. First and foremost, they presented the United States, Utah and Salt Lake City to the world in a fashion that exceeded all expectations. Utah and Salt Lake City are now known as world-class communities. The financial legacy is equally impressive. Not only did SLOC repay the $59 million and $40 million, but it paid the amounts back early. SLOC also contributed $141 million to the development of sport and entertainment facilities. It made over $6 million in charitable contributions. And SLOC ended up with a $56 million surplus, to further enhance the legacy of the Games and sport in Utah.
In his address to the Utah Legislature immediately following the Olympics, Mitt Romney made it clear that there is no one more responsible for the financial success of the Games than Fraser Bullock. For his service to the taxpayers of Utah, the Utah Taxpayers Association is pleased to present Fraser Bullock the Association’s 2002 “Excellence in Public Service” Award.
CONGRESSMAN JAMES V. HANSEN
With the end of the cold war in the early 1990s the United States Congress began the process of downsizing the U.S. military. Base closings were at the forefront of congressional action during the closure rounds of 1991, 1993 and again in 1995. Utah’s largest employer is Hill Air Force Base with 22,000 jobs which were saved by Congressman Jim Hansen’s constant and effective efforts. Hill survived all three rounds, even as bases in more politically powerful states such as California and Texas were closed.
This is just one example of Jim Hansen’s successful service to the citizens of the state of Utah. We could spend the rest of the afternoon enumerating Congressman Hansen’s successful work in fighting to protect other military installations, his work advocating for NASA and the Space Shuttle, Thiokol (now Alliant Tech), Utah defense contractors, Utah State University, public lands and natural resources, National Parks, National Monuments and Heritage Areas, the Central Utah Project, payments in lieu of taxes, disaster assistance for Utah counties, transportation and public works, and the list goes on and on. He sponsored the legislation to return to the states the right to set their own speed limits on highways.
Mr. Hansen was the longest-serving member in history on the House Ethics Committee. Because of his integrity, he was entrusted to investigate the abuses by some members of the House bank, the ABSCAM bribery scandal, and investigations of Speakers Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich.
Jim Hansen is the Only Utah Congressman to ever chair a full Congressional Committee and he chaired two: The Ethics committee and the Committee on Resources.
Many national taxpayer groups and citizen groups have given Congressman Hansen their highest awards including the following: Americans for Tax Reform – “Hero of the Taxpayer Award”, The Watchdogs of the Treasury, Inc. “Golden Bulldog Award”, Citizens for a Sound Economy “Jefferson Award”, National Federation of Independent Business “Guardian of Small Business” award, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Spirit of Enterprise” 100% Award.
And now, added to his list of recognitions is the Utah Taxpayers Association’s “2002 Lifetime Service Award.”
MAYOR NANCY WORKMAN
When voters approved the Mayor-Council form of government we were all a little nervous about whether the new form of government would be more or less costly for taxpayers. Then when the outgoing three commissioners balanced their final budget with a massive property tax increase, everyone wondered if the new Mayor and Council would just accept it as a new, higher spending base to give them more wiggle room, or whether they would accept the challenge from taxpayers to trim spending.
We were thrilled to see this new mayor’s leadership in taking on department heads – with whom she had become so close as the elected county recorder and even the Sheriff, who had the upper hand with public opinion which always seems to support more spending for public safety.
Mayor Workman stood her ground and actually proposed a nearly $1 million cut in the property tax which had been adopted by the commissioners.
But convincing the council was a difficult task. It looked like the Mayor’s tax proposal was one vote shy of passage when she and the Taxpayers Association tag-teamed our lobbying of the council. In the meeting where the vote was taken, the message given by the Mayor and Taxpayers Association were compelling: Taxpayers had had enough. The vote was then called and we saw the Mayor’s proposal to reduce the municipal services tax increase pass by a narrow 5 to 4 vote.
But Mayor Workman still wasn’t satisfied. Last fall, she made sure the first budget she presented to the Council was virtually flat, requiring departments to trim spending in order to accommodate inflationary costs.
This legislative session members of the Salt Lake County Council were hoping the county could get the legislature to authorize a 6% utility franchise tax in the unincorporated areas of the county. This tax could have a devastating impact on jobs which rely on energy consumption. Mayor Workman told council members that she would be opposing the utility franchise tax. Advocates of the tax decided this was not the year.
For her fiscal toughness and her refusal to be intimidated, Mayor Nancy Workman received the “2002 Taxpayer Advocate of the Year Award.”