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State Tax Overhaul Moves Ahead As Lawmakers Look To Special Session This Week

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Austen Diamond
A Utah legislative task force met Monday evening to discuss draft legislation to overhaul state taxes.

Utah lawmakers are expected to take up tax reform in a special session Thursday after a state task force approved legislation late last night aimed at cutting taxes by $160 million.


The task force on Monday night voted 6-3 in favor of the bill, which reduces the state income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.66% while increasing sales tax on food, gas and some services such as ride sharing.


Budget estimates show most Utahns under the new bill would pay less in taxes. A family of four making $60,000 would save about $525, for example. 


Supporters of the bill say it’s a critical first step, one that should be locked in before the 2020 Legislature’s general session, where prolonged debate could block other legislation from passing. 


Photo of attendees at the meeting.
Credit Jon Reed / KUER
Attendees packed the room Monday evening at a meeting where members of a Utah legislative task force discussed a bill that would overhaul state taxes.

Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said that the special session is the time to tackle it. 

“It will receive a lot more scrutiny, a lot more attention than it would ever receive during the general session,” he said.


State Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, and Rep. Joel K. Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, along with Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, voted against the bill, voicing concerns over how it would address long term education funding and if it would remain viable after 5-7 years. 


Quinn  said the legislation fails to deliver on the original goal of tax reform: to shore up the general fund, which is used to pay for a range of social services including public safety and transportation.


“We didn’t broaden the base hardly at all and we didn’t do anything to reflect the changing economy, which is that we’re paying more for services than we are for goods,” he said. 


Quinn said that while gas and food taxes are going up, the other service increases won’t cover the general fund expenses. A major portion — $559 million — will be set aside for higher education after the reduction in income taxes, leaving roughly $43 million left in the general fund. 

Lawmakers hope to meet in a special session on Thursday, though Gov. Gary Herbert has not called one yet.


Correction: 8:33 a.m. MST 12/10/19: An earlier version of this story misstated when an interim legislative session will be held. While lawmakers are expected to meet Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert or legislative leadership must formally call the session.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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