Utah lawmakers are once again weighing whether to eliminate the state's sales tax on food items — and the author behind the legislation is urging his colleagues to get on board.
Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, said his bill is for struggling families and elderly people on fixed incomes. Eliminating the food sales tax for these groups, he said, would save them an average of $90 a year.
“And to most of us, that’s not very meaningful, but to many of us in our society, it’ll make a difference,” he told members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday.
Quinn is proposing getting rid of the state’s 1.7 percent portion of the sales tax on unprepared foods — excluding candy. Instead, the bill, H.B. 148, would raise the general sales tax on non-food products from 4.7 to 4.94 percent. That would allow the state to recoop the $88 million it would otherwise lose.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, who was one of three committee members that voted against the legislation, said he believed the bill was not targeted enough.
“My concern is we’re casting an awfully broad net, and every body who buys food, the majority of which who are not in need of additional help, will have that tax abatement,” he said.
But many advocacy groups, like Utahns Against Hunger, spoke in support of nixing the tax, and eight of the taxation committee's 12 members voted in favor of moving it forward.
Quinn said for him, it’s not an economic issue, but a moral one.
“Everyone on this committee is very familiar with two pieces of legislation during the interim that would’ve readily given $87 million worth of tax breaks to corporations and we didn’t have near the debate on those two items as we are on this," he said.
Quinn noted that Utah is just one of 10 states that still taxes food.