On Monday night, the legislators on the Tax Reform and Equalization Task Force voted 6 to 3 to advance the latest tax reform bill, revealed on December 6th. The final public meeting was over 4 hours long and included 50 members of the public speaking up in favor and against the tax proposal. The next day, the Deseret News Editorial Board once again urged legislators not to rush to a vote on the 199-page bill that had been made public only 3 days prior.
Regardless, a special session has been called for Thursday, December 12 at the Utah State Capitol, and legislators will be called in from across the state to convene in the House and Senate chambers to cast their votes on the measure.
Changes in the tax reform bill
The new bill now includes a $160 million tax cut, per new numbers from the Governor’s office and at the Governor’s urging, by reducing the rate of income tax from 4.95% to 4.66%. The bill makes changes to dependent exemptions to make up for federal exemption changes and adds a grocery credit for low- to middle-income families to attempt to make up for increasing the state sales tax on food.
The bill attempts to stabilize sales tax receipts by increasing the state’s share of taxes on food from 1.75% to 4.85%, a controversial move that poverty advocates see as regressive and harmful to low-income Utahns, and by adding sales taxes to gasoline, which would effectively raise the price at the pump by about 12 cents per gallon.
While some services, such as pet boarding, towing, parking lots, Uber and other ride-hailing apps, and dating referrals would face new taxes, other current services were left out altogether in a move that Democrats condemned as picking favorites based on who could afford to hire lobbyists. Some sales tax exemptions would be also eliminated.
More changes to be considered during the General Session
Not included in the tax reform bill is a set of accompanying proposals that will be considered in a package during the State Legislative Session, which begins on January 27th. The package will include the following proposals:
- Allowing local school districts to make up the difference in funding for schools through property tax hikes.
- Including state money to help equalize receipts between school districts that have high property values and those in less prosperous areas.
- Voting to ask Utahns to vote in 2020 to change the Utah State Constitution to remove the constitutional requirement that all income tax monies be used toward education to allow income taxes collections to be used for things.
What is a Special Session?
The Governor and/or State Legislature have the power to call our state legislators into a special session to vote on urgent funding or policy matters. Legislators will likely hold committee hearings prior to the floor sessions to hear about and debate floor proposals on the chamber floor. The public may have an opportunity to give public comments at the committee hearings. The public is welcome to attend and listen to the session, but may not provide public comment at this time. Any Utahn is, however, permitted to invite legislators out to the lobby floor outside the chamber room to advocate for or against the measure and try to sway their vote.
FOR OR AGAINST THE TAX REFORM BILL? WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Contact your state representative and state senator TODAY!
- Attend the special session on Thursday and use the green slips (for House Reps) or blue slips (for state senators) to call your legislators out for a quick talk to try to sway their vote.
Tips for community lobbying on Capitol Hill
- Use a picture to identify your legislator when he/she comes out and approach them – they won’t know what you look like.
- Leave behind one page of easy-to-read information for your legislators to use to inform their votes
- Be respectful and civil with your legislators, even if you disagree with them
- Plan to take only one minute of their time – legislators are busy and need to be in the chambers to hear the debate and cast votes.
- If your legislator does not come out to meet with you, don’t be offended – legislators can’t always take the time away from the floor debate to speak with constituents. You can still send in a second green or blue note with your one pager attached to make sure they get the information you came to give them.