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The tax tiff truth test in Love’s and McAdams’ District 4 ads

Posted at 7:29 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 21:48:01-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY -- In ads airing regularly on Utah television, Representative Mia Love's campaign says Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams "repeatedly supported higher taxes."

The ad cites six articles from Utah Newspapers and from Fox 13 to back up the point.

So what do those articles say?

  • The Oct. 31, 2014 article from the Deseret News and the June 27, 2014 article from Fox 13 show McAdams asking residents to vote in favor of renewing the Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) tax. The articles do not support Love's point.
  • The Nov. 8, 2012 article from the Deseret News describes tax increases proposed by McAdams' predecessor in the Mayor's office, Peter Corroon. McAdams is quoted in the article very carefully avoiding any statement of support for the tax increase. While that could be viewed as too clever and politically expedient, the article does not support Love's point.
  • The Sept. 23, 2015, and Nov. 24, 2015 articles in the Salt Lake Tribune describe a proposal from the mayor, passed by the County Council that can be called a tax increase, though it's not so straightforward. When the county paid off an old bond for jail expansion, they continued collecting the same amount of money to pay for criminal justice programs. It's like getting a car loan paid off and seeing your electric bill go up by the amount of your old payment. Just because your paying the same amount overall doesn't mean your electric bill didn't go up.
  • That leaves their citation of the Salt Lake Tribune on Nov. 23, 2015, which is a puzzler. The only article featuring McAdams on that day outlining the strategy of shutting down the large downtown homeless shelter in favor of a more specialized, four shelter system. McAdams says in the article the County and Salt Lake City would ask the state for one-time money. Those would be tax dollars, but there's no suggestion he's arguing for a tax increase. I didn't include this description in the on-air report above because of the need for a lengthy explanation.

In other words, McAdams supported a higher tax in one of the four circumstances above, so "repeatedly" is a stretch.

Love's ad also says, "McAdams opposed tax cuts for most Utahns this year." This is about the GOP tax cuts passed in Nov. of 2017. It's a fact that McAdams opposed the cuts, as is born out in the article from the Daily Utah Chronicle cited in the ad.

It is also true that McAdams employs four executives who are paid at, or close to, the 185 thousand dollars cited in Love's ad. It's a fact. It's also surprisingly more common than you might think. For example, top employees in many of Utah's medium-sized cities make more. 

McAdams put out an ad that seems intended to defend against Love's claims on taxes, with Troy Walker, the mayor of Draper, said he lowered the tax rate every year he's been in office. That is also a fact. State Property Tax records show taxes have gone down every year since 2013 when McAdams took office. Of course, that increase in Mayor Corroon's last year helped.