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Open-space Initiatives May Be on Ballot After All

Open-space Initiatives May Be on Ballot After All



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Following a court-ordered re-examination of rejected petition signatures in two counties, it appears the open-space initiative may be on the November ballot after all.

Utah and Cache county clerk's offices said Thursday that it appears there are enough valid signatures for the proposed $150 million conservation bond.

Utah County Clerk Kim Jackson said the petitions likely would be certified and sent to the lieutenant governor's office Friday.

In July, the two counties declared the petitions filed by Utahns for Clean Water, Clean Air and Quality Growth failed to have the required number of signatures.

The petition filed in Cache County was deemed 228 signatures short while the one Utah County was just two signatures shy.

The group appealed to the state Supreme Court, which told clerks Aug. 13 to re-examine the petitions.

It ruled that the county clerks erred when they threw out names when they couldn't be verified against addresses.

The clerks went to work. "We've basically found enough signatures," Jackson said. "Our attorney is looking at it before we sign it and send it, but we're confident that we'll be certifying it."

A deputy clerk in Cache County, who declined to be identified, told the Standard-Examiner that ample signatures were found and that the certified petition would be sent Friday to the lieutenant governor's office, which oversees the elections office.

The petitions then must be certified by election officials before the initiative is put on the ballot.

The leaders of Utahns for Clean Water, Clean Air and Quality Growth declined comment pending that action.

If the bond is approved by voters, payment will be generated by a .05 percent sales tax increase over 10 years -- about $14 per year for the average Utah family earning $51,000 a year.

The money would be administered by the state's Quality Growth Commission, which would use the bond proceeds to issue grants. Once the bonds are retired, the tax would end.

The bond has broad backing from environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, rural city and county leaders and hunting and fishing organizations.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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