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Lawmakers Vow 'Clean Slate' On Tax Reform Proposals

House Speaker Brad Wilson.
Austen Diamond for KUER
House Speaker Brad Wilson.

Utah lawmakers are promising a fresh start on tax reform proposals after major backlash against a bill earlier this year.

At a forum hosted by the conservative Utah Eagle Forum Wednesday, Sen. Daniel Hemmert and House Speaker Brad Wilson said there are lots of ideas on the table that could move tax reform forward.

“There are probably 30 options for us to fix this structural and revenue problem, and at the same time deliver a tax to Utahns,” Wilson said. “We’re going to look at all those options and find the best path forward.”

Gov. Gary Herbert has tasked the legislature with restructuring the state tax code. Utah’s sales tax revenue—which funds all government services except education—is not keeping up with Utah’s booming population.

Earlier this year, lawmakers proposed H.B. 441, which would have imposed new taxes on services from salon visits to legal fees, while lowering the overall sales tax rate from 4.85% to 3.1%

The bill met stiff opposition from businesses and taxpayers before lawmakers ultimately tabled it.

But some critics like Dora Schoenfeld are still fighting the idea of new taxes across the board.

“I do feel that we need to plan for the future growth of the state,” Schoenfeld said during the Eagle Forum event. “However, I do not think that we should tax services. I think that will be a detriment to small business and to senior citizens (like) myself because we are on fixed incomes.”

A new group called the Utah Tax Reform Coalition also opposes taxes on all services. Executive Director Krista Palmer said she was encouraged that some lawmakers on the panel backed away from the original proposal of taxing all service sectors.

“Part of what we heard today was a pretty clear message that H.B. 441 is dead, especially as it relates to taxes on all services. We’re super hopeful that they hold to that,” Palmer said.

Earlier this week, 14 lawmakers and experts were appointed to a task force to study and propose ideas. Gov. Gary Herbert has called for a special legislative session to pass a tax reform bill later this year.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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