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2020 Primaries: Incumbent Legislators Challenged For Involvement In Controversial Tax Reform Bill

The Utah State Capitol.
Nicole Nixon
The controversial state tax reform bill passed at the end of 2019 is playing an important role in Utah's legislative races this year.

A dozen incumbent legislators in Utah are facing primary challengers this year. And for many current legislators, the rallying cry against them is about their involvement in the controversial tax reform bill passed at the end of 2019. 

In Southern Utah, one state House race is centered on it. Incumbent Rep. Brad Last — chair of the House executive appropriations committee — is being challenged by local businessman Willie Billings. 

Last has coasted to his seat as the representative for House District 71 for 17 years, but convention results from the end of April had Billings 12% ahead of Last. 

Billings was involved in the referendum effort that would have put the bill on the ballot. Although he wouldn’t explicitly say that was what motivated him to seek office, one of his central platforms is around education funding, which would have been cut if the bill had passed.

“There’s a reason there’s elections every two years,” Billings said. “What I’ve campaigned on is the items in that tax bill that I specifically disagree with.” 

Last didn’t respond to requests for comment, but during a local debate a few weeks ago, he defended himself against Billings saying the bill would have cut taxes by $160 million. 

“He’s used this bill to challenge my reputation as a conservative, which I don’t appreciate,” Last said during the debate. 

The primary election is June 30 and will happen entirely by mail, except in San Juan County.

Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP


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