The Utah State Legislature has announced that they intend to increase the sales tax on food, from 1.75% to 4.35%. This is regressive tax policy that will put a greater burden on low-income Utahns — those who can least afford it. Legislators are justifying the food tax hike in order to balance out an overall sales tax cut. However, as this graphic shows, the tax shift would most benefit out of state visitors, and would actually increase the tax burden on Utahns. Food insecurity is already a major problem in Utah, with 1 in 8 homes struggling to afford enough food. These are not homeless people or even people in poverty, but ordinary Utahns who pay their bills, but have trouble stretching their low wages to cover food.
The food tax is predicted to come wrapped inside a wide reaching tax bill alongside plenty of good tax policy, meaning legislators will be forced either to oppose good policy in order to block a bad food tax or will have to pass a bad food tax in order to pass other good policy. It also means there has been no bi-partisan discussion and no opportunity for public input, which is NOT how policy should be made.
Holly Richardson a former Utah legislator, knows this type of taxation doesn’t work. In her op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune on February 18th, she writes “an increase in the food tax balances the budget on the backs of Utah’s working poor.” Help stop the food tax hike by taking action TODAY.
CALL TO ACTION
- Email or text your state representative to oppose the food tax and to prevent it from getting added into the tax bill. Click here to find your rep’s name and contact info. Be sure to mention that you are a constituent. Use email subject header: “Please oppose a food tax increase“.
- Call, text or email Senate President Niederhauser ASAP to let him know you are concerned about the 1 in 6 children in Utah who are already going hungry and that you want to protect Utah’s poor and hungry instead of penalizing them. Mobile: 801-742-1606, wni
- Take this quick survey from Utah Policy to make your voice heard.
Organizations opposing the food tax include: AARP Utah, American Academy of Pediatrics – Utah, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City Peace and Justice Commission, Community Action Partnership of Utah, Comunidades Unidas, Disability Law Center, League of Women Voters of Utah, Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities, Utah Community Action, NAMI – Utah, Utah Housing Coalition, Utahns Against Hunger, Voices for Utah Children. Their joint open letter to legislators opposing the food tax gives a great explanation of how various tax cuts and hikes impact different segments of the Utah population.
Yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune article “Governor Herbert won’t oppose hiking sales tax on food” discusses the coincidental timing of the proposed food tax hike with the upcoming Our Schools Now education ballot initiative.
Also in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday: “Opponents urge Utah lawmakers to drop ‘weird, unfair’ food tax reform“, which describes the way lawmakers are proposing to “broaden the base” in order to cut Utah sales tax overall, but are actually “punishing the base” by forcing the tax hikes on people who spend disproportionately more of their income on food.
Check out this link from Utahns Against Hunger for data on Utah’s poverty and food insecurity rates.
Action Utah will continue tracking this issue in the final days of the state legislative session. Stay tuned…