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Utah Rep Calls Elimination Of Food Tax A 'Moral' Issue


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.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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