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Truth Test: Does Our Schools Now ballot question do what those cute kids say it does?

Posted at 7:04 PM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-29 15:18:13-04

(KSTU) -- Our Schools Now started with a big goal.

The group, spearheaded by Zion's Bank CEO Scott Anderson and Jazz Owner Gail Miller, wanted to inject as much as $700 million into Utah's chronically underfunded public schools. They had the signatures and were heading for the 2018 ballot as a citizen initiative increasing income and sales taxes to accomplish the goal.

The Legislature balked at the idea of the tax increase, and proposed a two-part compromise.

They'd allow property taxes to gradually rise as home values rose, estimating an increase in the hundreds of millions over five years, and they'd cut the income tax on individuals and corporations.

Then they'd put a question on the ballot asking voters if they want a gas tax hike.

We'll get to that idea of a "ballot question" in a moment, and we won't get through the financial acrobatics of funneling gas tax money into an account for roads and levering out the same amount to schools because doing things in a straightforward way would be way too straightforward.

So the Our Schools Now movement is now backing a ballot question, asking you if you'd support a ten cent per gallon hike in the gas tax.

To the ad. You should watch it above because the kids in it do a great job and deserve the adulation.

Three claims from the ad:

1. Utah Students are falling behind in Math, English, and Science.
That's a FACT. The standardized SAGE tests from 2017 set benchmarks for students to meet to be considered "proficient" in each subject. In all three categories, less than 50 percent of students received proficient scores for their grade levels.

2. The additional tax on gas would cost Utah drivers $4.00 on average each month.
That's FUDGING, just a little. The average licensed driver in Utah drives 15,442 miles each year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. A Ford F-150, Utah's most popular vehicle, averages 19 miles per gallon in combined highway and city driving. Combine those numbers and the F-150 driver would spend $6.75 more per month.

A Subaru Outback driver getting 28 mpg would spend about $4.60 per month extra.

A Toyota Prius driver at 52 mpg would spend $2.50 extra.

If we all drove Priuses the world would probably be a better place but, alas, we don't. (Your's truly drives an F-150. Pause for guilt pang.) The average driver would probably pay a dollar or so more than the $4.00 advertised.

3. The 10 cents per gallon would raise $100 million dollars a year. Outrageous, right!?
Wrong. It's a FACT.
Utah taxed 1.23 billion gallons of gas in 2017.
Ten cent per gallon gets you $123 million dollars. The ad actually underestimates.

Ok, now let's get back to that whole "ballot question" thing. What does that mean?

It means you are expressing an opinion with your vote. The vote won't change the law. It won't levy a tax. It won't even put a bill in front of lawmakers.

Passing the question is simply a statement to lawmakers that their constituents want to raise money for schools through a gas tax.