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Tax Reform

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Dozens of teachers dressed in #RedForEd continue to fill hearing rooms at Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force meetings around the state. The issue is important because of the impact potential tax changes could have on education funding. The latest Task Force proposal would reduce funding available for education by more than $700 million and remove the Utah constitutional guarantee that dedicates all income tax revenue to education.

Utah Tax Reform Resources


Referendum successful in signature gathering, Legislature repeals tax reform law – January 28, 2020

By a vote of 70-1-4 in the House and 27-0-2 in the Senate, the legislature repealed SB2001, the controversial tax reform bill passed by the legislature during a Special Session in December. Governor Herbert signed the repeal later that same afternoon. By coincidence, the vote comes on the same day the referendum effort to repeal tax reform reached the required number of validated signatures necessary to put the measure on the November ballot, according to the signature count provided by the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Gov. Gary Herbert, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President earlier announced that the legislature would repeal the law, preempting a vote of the people.

“Thank you to all those who, like me, signed the referendum to strike down this law,” wrote UEA President Heidi Matthews in an email to UEA leaders. “We especially applaud the efforts of those who took the time to volunteer in the signature-gathering campaign. Collecting sufficient signatures was a monumental task deemed unattainable by most political observers. An army of volunteers from across the political spectrum (along with a major boost from local grocers) made it possible.”

The tax reform law would have cut the income tax with unknown impact on overall public education spending. Without a replacement law, the “structural imbalance” in the state’s tax system remains unaddressed. Unsure now how our legislature will deal with this imbalance, the Utah Education Association remains concerned that a new solution may well be more harmful to education funding than the previous one.

“Our message to the public and to legislators remains unchanged,” said Matthews. :Our students need long-term, equitable and GROWING education funding. As I said in a recent UtahPolicy.com editorial, ‘As an organization whose members have dedicated their careers to educating our children, we wholeheartedly commit to engaging in continued honest discussions about finding long-term, stable and growing education funding sources. We look forward to working with legislators and education stakeholders to develop a plan that delivers the education opportunities our students so desperately need and deserve.’”

“Yes, there are many unknowns, but this legislative session may well represent a unique opportunity for us to influence education funding for generations to come,” noted Matthews.


UEA Supportive of Referendum but Is Not Leading the Effort – December 18, 2019

In an email to UEA leaders dated December 18, UEA President Heidi Matthews shared UEA’s position and answered questions about the referendum. She wrote:

“(UEA) will not be leading the referendum charge. Let me tell you why…

  1. A successful referendum outcome is extremely unlikely. The referendum process has changed considerably since the voucher referendum in 2007. The new law requires more signatures in a shorter time period and provides a simple process for signatures to be removed. The referendum will also require a heck of a lot of money. One reliable firm estimated the signature-gathering effort would take around $4 million – and even then, the outcome would be very uncertain.
  2. There is no unifying message. The legislation is widely opposed, but for very different reasons. Unlike vouchers, there is nothing that unifies voters on why this legislation should be overturned.
  3. A referendum doesn’t get us any closer to increased education funding. We’ve said all along our ultimate goal is to obtain the resources our students need. With or without SB2001, education investments are a matter of legislative will. Many legislators stood in support of increased commitment to education during tax reform debate. In our estimation, the odds of reaching our goals by holding their feet to the fire are better than a costly and risky referendum campaign.
  4. We’re better off recharging for the General Session battle. Last but certainly not least, I simply could not look you and our members in the eye and ask you to do more over this much-needed, well-deserved break. Collecting signatures does not recharge the soul. We all need rest, family and joy.

Don’t take any of this to mean we are not supportive of efforts to overturn SB2001. We encourage anyone who wants to be involved in the referendum effort to do so. You can learn more by joining the Utah 2019 Tax Referendum Facebook group.”


Tax Reform Legislation Passes in Special Session – December 13, 2019

As expected, sweeping tax reform legislation passed both the House (43-27) and the Senate (20-7) during a Special Session on December 12. The bill now goes to the Governor for signature.

“We believe it was irresponsible to pass a major tax reform bill, especially one that includes a significant cut to the income tax, without first demonstrating with certainty how the change will impact public education funding,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews following the legislative vote. "By passing this tax reform legislation, legislators have chosen a piecemeal approach to tax reform rather than the comprehensive approach the UEA and many others recommended."

“Legislators have placed themselves in the precarious position of still needing to address critical public education concerns – such as reducing class sizes, providing high-quality early learning opportunities and addressing our severe teacher shortage, to name just a few – but now with severely reduced available tax funding,” she said.

“Clearly, we’re disappointed in the outcome, but it’s no time to quit. The battle for public education funding continues. (During debate on the bill Dec. 12) we listened to legislator after legislator, including many who voted for the tax reform bill, say they strongly support additional investments in education. Our challenge now is to hold them to their word,” said Matthews.

In a Facebook Live video shared following the vote, Cache Education Association President Theresa Stanton said, “I was pleased to see how many people we had in both chambers supporting public education…Even though I’m disappointed…I’m glad to see democracy in action and, like a math teacher, I’m just going to expect (legislators) to show their work.”

In preparation for the upcoming General Legislative Session in January, Matthews offered five things UEA members can do…

  1. Continue to contact legislators. Strengthen your relationships with them. Find out why they voted the way they did (view the House vote, Senate vote) and what they plan to do to protect and grow future education funding.
  2. Look for partners. Reach out to others in your school and your community to build a coalition of support for public education.
  3. Stay informed at UEA Under the Dome. The site is updated regularly with important education-related legislative information.
  4. Schedule yourself to attend at least one UEA Educator Day on the Hill. These meetings, held at the Capitol each Friday during the legislative session, give educators the opportunity to meet lawmakers and share important classroom stories.
  5. Most importantly, spend time with loved ones and enjoy a much-earned holiday rest!

Special Legislative Session Called for Dec. 12 to Pass Tax Reform – December 11, 2019

Governor Herbert announced he is calling a Special Session of the Legislature Thursday, December 12, 5 p.m., to pass a state tax overhaul.

UEA President Heidi Matthews sent the following message to UEA Leaders on Dec. 10:

As I said in my letter to legislators (on Dec. 9), “We believe it is dangerous to pass a major tax reform bill, especially one that includes a $635 million cut to the income tax, until the legislature can demonstrate with certainty how the change will impact public education funding.” Nevertheless, Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force members voted 6-3 (on Dec. 9) to advance the tax reform bill to the full legislature. The legislature appears poised to pass the bill on December 12.

We’re disappointed legislators have chosen a piecemeal approach to tax reform rather than the comprehensive approach we proposed, but this is by no means the end…It’s not even halftime.

And don’t think for a minute our presence at Task Force meetings across the state wasn’t felt or our voices heard. Among the dozens of orchestrated presenters speaking in favor of the tax proposal last evening, many stressed the importance of continuing work to properly fund public education.

Some examples…

Jacey Skinner, representing the Salt Lake Chamber, said, “We understand the precariousness the education community feels. We share their concern that there are still ongoing conversations regarding education funding that will be left to subsequent legislation. We don’t yet know what that will be. While we prefer that these issues be addressed together, we believe you (legislators) that this important piece will be addressed during a General Session. We want to make sure you understand our clear priority in that area (education funding).”

Task Force member Rep. Mike Schultz specifically directed comments “to my good friends in the education community.” He said, “…I want to say you guys have a very difficult job and you do it better than anyone in the nation does and thank you for that…hopefully we can work together to solve education funding…I can tell you the commitment his here on the legislature’s part and the governor’s part to solve some of the issues that lie ahead.”

Also, when I completed my comments, Task Force co-chair Rep. Francis Gibson, passed along a specific message: “I will say you have been consistent and thank you for your advocacy for those important people. I would also let you know a message from both the Speaker and the Governor that they have spoken and they are committed to continue work with you and other stakeholders in this…specifically from both the Governor and the Speaker I was told to give you that message. I look forward to those dialogues.”

Legislators, the Governor, the Speaker and others felt compelled to acknowledge our concerns. They wouldn’t have done that if we hadn’t been a forceful presence.

Yes, our voices are being heard! It’s now time to pivot to the 2020 General Legislative Session (January 27-March 11), where the fight for education funding will continue.

In the meantime, here are five things UEA members can do…

  1. Continue to contact legislators. Strengthen your relationships with them. Urge them to reject tax reform and income tax cuts until they have a plan for supporting students. If they say they are voting in favor of the bill, find out why and what they plan to do to protect and grow future education funding.
  2. Follow the Special Session debate. Understand the issues and why legislators are voting the way they are.
  3. Stay informed at UEA Under the Dome. The site is updated regularly with important education-related legislative information.
  4. Schedule yourself to attend at least one UEA Educator Day on the Hill. These meetings, held at the Capitol each Friday during the legislative session, give educators the opportunity to meet lawmakers and share important classroom stories.
  5. Most importantly, spend time with loved ones and enjoy a much-earned holiday rest!

As I’ve said before, we are in this for the long haul.


UEA Urges Legislators to Oppose Income Tax Cuts Without Ed Funding Plan – December 9, 2019

UEA President Heidi Matthews sent the following email to all state legislators on December 9, 2019:

Dear Legislator,

Teachers have long understood that any cut to the income tax is a cut to education. We view the current tax reform proposal no differently.

We believe it is dangerous to pass a major tax reform bill, especially one that includes a $635 million cut to the income tax, until the legislature can demonstrate with certainty how the change will impact public education funding.

We strongly oppose any cuts to the income tax or tax restructuring without a firm plan to simultaneously address the critical funding needs of public education. That education plan must provide a path to support critical student needs such as reducing class sizes, providing high-quality early learning opportunities and addressing our severe teacher shortage, just to name a few.

As always, if you have any questions about our position, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to working with you to develop a funding plan that supports our students, our teachers and our schools.

Sincerely,

UEA President Heidi Matthews


UEA Urges Legislators to Oppose a Special Session on Tax Reform – December 4, 2019

The UEA Legislative Team sent the following email to all state legislators on December 4, 2019:

Dear Legislator,

On behalf of Utah’s dedicated public school teachers and their students, the Utah Education Association asks that you please oppose a special session on Utah tax reform until a firm plan for addressing the critical funding needs of public education can be publicly presented, openly discussed and fully vetted.

Teachers have looked to the tax reform process with great anticipation and hope for their students. In many ways, they see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, through this official tax reform process, to do something truly visionary for the students of Utah.

Our teachers have heard the promise that as the economy grows, so will investments in education. Unfortunately, current proposals do not keep that promise. They do little to GROW education investments and allow us to address critical student needs such as reducing class sizes, providing high-quality early learning opportunities and addressing our severe teacher shortage, just to name a few.

While we appreciate recognition that student enrollment growth and inflation must be a given in order to maintain status quo and we applaud efforts to ease legislative barriers our local school boards face in raising funds locally, no current plan ensures the sustainable, long-term, equitable and growing education resources our students so desperately need.

We urge you to oppose a special session to enact tax reform and continue the work to develop a plan that supports our students, our teachers and our schools.

Sincerely,

The UEA Legislative Team


UEA President calls tax reform plan “wrong for Utah” - November 22, 2019

‘Tough time’ predicted for Utah lawmakers’ funding plan for schools in tax reform package
Deseret News, Nov. 22, 2019

“The overall tax proposal, plus the education piece, cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools. That’s not good for kids. It’s wrong for our teachers. It’s wrong for our schools. It’s wrong for our students and it’s wrong for Utah,” Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews said Thursday.

…Matthews, who was in Florida Thursday for an education association meeting, said teachers are already raising their own concerns about the plan.

“My email is blowing up on an hourly basis,” she said

The funding in the plan is “very insufficient,” Matthews said, in terms of making up for the estimated $651 million cut in income taxes being proposed from dropping the state income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.56% and adding new exemptions and credits aimed at helping families along with the poor and elderly.

“It does not grow the investment in public education. While it does lay a baseline foundation for growth and inflation, it is simply not sufficient to address the needs of our students,” she said, warning those guarantees “would all but solidify our position as the lowest funded schools” in the nation per pupil.

A special session on tax reform, especially if it does not include an education funding plan, is premature, Matthews said.

“This has been such a confusing message from the beginning,” she said of the tax reform effort that started with a failed bill last session. The proposal then would have added sales taxes to many services to deal with a structural imbalance in the budget caused by lagging growth in sales taxes as consumer spending shifts from goods to services.

“Now we’ve gone from taxing services to gutting the fund that is constitutionally designated for public education. It’s complicated. It feels very rushed,” Matthews said. “Our members within the Utah Education Association are having such a hard time tracking this ... they want to know, ‘How is this going to affect my classroom?”

Teachers “absolutely” will campaign against amending the Utah Constitution to remove the restriction on spending income taxes only for schools, she said. Asked if their opposition could result in teacher walkouts or similar actions, Matthews said, “anything is possible. We care deeply.”

Read the full article


Draft tax reform bill calls for income tax cuts but gives no details on plan for education – November 7, 2019

Reported by Jay Blain

Dozens of teachers dressed in #RedForEd filled the hearing room as the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force unveiled a draft bill for comprehensive tax reform. In his opening comments, task force chair Lyle Hillyard explained that the gas tax only generates enough to cover about one-third of road construction costs. He also said revenue is not growing as fast as the state’s population.

Sen. Curt Bramble commented that is not good process to see a bill reported in the media before the committee even sees it. He is frustrated about getting phone calls from constituents about reports in the media about contents of the bill when he hasn’t even seen it.

Legislative staff then presented an executive summary of the bill. The bill reduces the income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.58%. According to the summary, income taxes would be cut by $650 million, while sales tax revenues would increase by about $570 million, for an overall net tax reduction of about $80 million. A family of four earning $60,000 annually would see an estimated tax reduction of more than $320 under the proposal.

During public comment, UEA President Heidi Matthews read a statement endorsed by the Utah Public Education Coalition supporting principles for education reform. She also expressed concerns about draft bill. “The bill includes massive cuts to the Constitutionally dedicated revenue source for public education in Utah. This bill proposes no vision for the schools we want for our state and more importantly no public plan for demonstrating sustained increases in growing education funding for our students’ future. How can we even begin to make decisions about this proposal in the absence of a new funding plan for education?”

Matthews said the time frame for approving and implementing massive statewide tax changes is also problematic. “The Legislature has failed to make a case that warrants a special session in the next few weeks. Decisions of such magnitude require significant discussion. Without those discussions, holding any special session is premature.” (Hear Heidi's full comments.)

Michael McDonough, Granite Education Association president and a teacher at Woodstock Elementary School, said cutting education funding without resolving how that money would be replaced is like demolishing an old school that needs replacing while the kids are still in it instead of waiting for a new building to be completed. (Hear Michael's full comments.)

Caren Burns, a teacher at Beehive Elementary in Kearns became emotional as she described the impact raising the sales tax on food and adding new taxes to services will have on the low-income students she serves. (Hear Caren's full comments.)

Many others spoke to the bill, including advocates for the poor sharing concerns about increasing the food tax and service providers who object to increased taxes on their services.

The task force took no action during the meeting but plans to meet again on Nov. 21.


Introduction to Tax Reform by UEA President Heidi Matthews – August 5, 2019

UEA President Heidi Matthews encourages educators to get involved...



Task Force Presents First Proposals – October 23, 2019

Members of the legislative Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force presented a total of six tax reform proposals. On Oct. 22, the Task Force voted to move forward a single proposal. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gherke offered a somewhat gloomy analysis of the proposalFollowing is information and analysis about the proposal…

What the Proposal Would Do

  • Cut money available for education by more than $700 million

    • Reduce the corporate and individual income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.7% (-$396 million)
    • Expand the Utah dependent exemption from $500 to $2,500 (-$95 million)
    • Provide a tax credit for low-income taxpayers (-$146 million)
    • Increase the Social Security credit (-$18 million)
    • Move school lunch funding from the liquor tax to the Education Fund (-$55 million)
  • Increase revenue by about $630 million through tax increases, exemption limitations, etc.
    • Restore the full sales tax on food ($250 million)
    • Remove the wholesale motor fuel sales tax exemption ($240 million)
    • Tax several services not currently taxed ($65 million)
    • Shift school lunch funding from the liquor tax to the Education Fund ($55 million)
    • Add misc. exemptions and rental car tax ($22 million)
  • Remove the constitutional guarantee allowing income tax to be used only for public education
  • Establish “meaningful funding security for public education” (yet to be defined)

The Public Process

  • Two additional Task Force meetings are scheduled at the State Capitol House Building, Room 30
    • Thursday, Nov. 7, 4 p.m.
    • Thursday, Nov. 21, 5 p.m.
    • Bills will be drafted based on the task force’s proposals
    • There is speculation the bills will be considered in a Special Session sometime in early December

UEA Analysis and Next Steps

  • $700 million in cuts to education would be devastating for our students, teachers and schools
  • Restoring the full sales tax on food would be devastating for our most vulnerable students as well as many educators
  • Until we understand how legislators plan to “establish meaningful funding security for public education” we cannot know the full impact of this proposal (a meeting with legislative leadership will happen soon)
  • The process is far from finished. The UEA Legislative Team will…
    • Continue meeting with legislative leadership and key legislators to influence the tax reform proposals and outcomes
    • Work with other education partners to have strength in numbers in our positions
    • Keep UEA leaders informed
    • Be prepared to call on our members to take action as needed

UEA Delivers Tax Reform Concerns to Legislators – October 14, 2019

The UEA Legislative Team sent the following email to all state legislators on October 14, 2019:

Dear Legislator,

On behalf of Utah’s dedicated public school teachers and their students, the Utah Education Association respectfully requests you keep the following in mind as you develop and consider tax reform proposals:

  1. Education powers our economy.
    Tax policies must deliver sustainable and growing education investments in individualized student attention, the state’s critical teacher shortage, student health and safety, and equitable opportunities for every student no matter where they live. Besides providing a better education for our children, each dollar invested in education provides greater economic returns than equal investments in corporate subsidies or tax cuts.
  2. Any cut to income tax hurts students.
    The income tax that is constitutionally guaranteed to fund public education has not kept pace with student needs. Just a .05% reduction in the income tax rate, as we saw in 2018, means about $55 million less available for our students each year. We simply can’t afford to leave any child’s potential unrealized.
  3. Transportation shortfalls require a transportation fix.
    General Fund revenue gaps exist largely because the state has been unable to keep up with growing transportation demands. Don’t attempt to solve a transportation funding problem on the backs of school children.
  4. The state has a revenue problem.
    The needs of Utah’s citizens are growing while tax burdens are falling. There is clearly a need to continue to grow education investment, adjust sales tax collection for a 21st century economy and increase transportation revenue for a growing population.

It is not enough to simply maintain or “hold harmless” education funding. Our students need secure sustainable and growing education revenue sources.

Please feel free to reach out to any member of the UEA Legislative Team if you would like to discuss our concerns.

Sincerely,

The UEA Legislative Team 


Education a Hot Topic at Tax Townhall Meetings – August 6, 2019

Teachers were out in force over the summer as the Utah Legislature conducted townhall meetings to discuss tax reform. The Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force held a series of eight revenue restructure meetings across the state, beginning June 25 in Brigham City and concluding July 30 in Orem.

“It is not an exaggeration to say the decisions resulting from the tax reform process have the potential to impact education funding for generations,” said UEA Government Relations Director Chase Clyde. “The Legislature needs to hear that tax decisions are important because ensuring sustainable growth in education funding is important. It is critical that the voices of educators are heard.”

Indeed, teachers were heard. Teachers wearing #RedForEd took the microphone in many of the meetings to express the need for protecting and growing education funding.

“Current funding of education is not meeting the needs of our students,” said Grand High School teacher Hank Postma at the Moab townhall meeting. “We’ve been told the last decade plus to be patient and let the economy grow and that growth will fund the needs of our students. Well, the economy has grown and rather than taking the opportunity to invest in our children, we are now looking at moving that money elsewhere.”

During the Davis County meeting, Weber School District teacher Maddie Williams said, “I’m here for the students, that’s why I teach.” She described the difficulties in teaching classes with a large number of students. “Those kids deserve to have a comfortable place to learn and without funding in the right places, we can’t do our jobs.”

While revenues for education are up (Education Fund), the state has experienced much slower growth in revenues for other services (General Fund). Failed attempts to address General Fund shortfalls led the 2019 Legislature to pass HB495, creating the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force charged to “study state and local revenue systems with the purpose of making recommendations to address structural imbalances among revenue sources.”

Next steps in the process are yet to be publicly announced. Check here at UEA Under the Dome regularly for the most recent information, links and updated meeting details.


UEA: Utah tax policy should ‘grow public education investments in student success’ – May 30, 2019

The UEA released the following Issue Brief outlining its recommendations for tax policy solutions…

UEA Issue Brief: Utah State Tax Restructuring and Equalization

While revenues for education are up (Education Fund), the state has experienced much slower growth in revenues for other services (General Fund). Failed attempts to address General Fund shortfalls led the 2019 Legislature to pass HB495, creating a “Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force” charged to “study state and local revenue systems with the purpose of making recommendations to address structural imbalances among revenue sources.” The Task Force will hold town hall meetings around the state to solicit public engagement and ideas.

The UEA SUPPORTS tax policy solutions that…

1. Grow public education investments in student success

  • It is not enough to simply maintain or “hold harmless” education funding. Our students need secure sustainable and growing education revenue sources.
  • We must safeguard and expand long-term resources available for public education such as provided by the Utah constitutional guarantee directing income tax to education
  • Policymakers should rely on teachers as experts when identifying what is needed to ensure student success.

2. Provide equitable resources for ALL students to learn and thrive

  • All students, regardless of zip code, deserve learning opportunities in safe schools, classes small enough for one-on-one attention and up-to-date learning materials/tools.
  • Students cannot learn when they are hungry, stressed or in pain. Families in need should be provided support services like nutrition, counseling and health care.

3. Allow the state to attract and retain qualified teachers and other school staff

  • We must invest in the root causes of the teacher shortage and support teaching as a sustainable profession.
  • We must ensure that every educator has the resources, mentoring and support they need to ensure student success.
  • Salary is critical, but resources must be provided to address other stress factors driving teachers from the profession such as:

class sizes well beyond recommended norms for optimal student learning;

over-focus on standardized tests that take up valuable learning time;

lack of classroom support (counselors, librarians, paraeducators, etc.);

increasing student social, emotional and behavior issues; and

insufficient mentoring support for educators entering the profession.


- Printable version of the UEA Issue Brief: Utah State Tax Restructuring and Equalization (pdf)
- "Telling Your Story" about education funding (pdf)

Task force charged with tax restructuring holds first meeting, announces townhall dates – May 30, 2019

Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force (reported by Jay Blain): The first meeting of the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force included a discussion of the process and announcement of tentative town hall meeting dates and locations, but included no public comment, policy action or discussion. Several teachers were in attendance wearing their #RedForEd.

After introductions, Rep. Mike Schultz gave a recap of the 2019 Legislature’s HB441. The bill would have reduced the income tax and expanded sales tax to many services. His summary was that there was not enough time to address all the concerns raised. He said the process worked.

Jonathan Ball, legislative fiscal analyst, gave a presentation to review the definition of the problem. They also shared a document explaining the vision and principles for the task force and a process graphic about public input.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard explained that the purpose of the town halls is not to debate but to get public input on options. He also said legislative staff will be developing a website for the task force where the public can enter comments, get information about the data and other items.

The tentative town hall dates, times and locations announced during the meeting are as follows, with specific venues to be named later (handout provided at the meeting):

  • Tuesday, June 25, Brigham City, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, June 27, Salt Lake County, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, June 28, Richfield, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 29, St George, mid-day (no specific time given)
  • Monday, July 8, Davis/Weber County, 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 9, Roosevelt, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 20, Moab, mid-day (no specific time given)
  • Tuesday, July 30, Utah County, 6 p.m.

Tax Reform In the News

Lawmakers grappling with bleak budget picture after collapse of tax reform
UtahPolicy.com, February 2, 2020
Following the collapse of the tax reform effort, House Speaker Brad Wilson is urging his fellow Republicans to take a short break before plunging ahead with new spending proposals because the state is rapidly running out of money for anything but education. “I said let’s just have a little breathing room for a week or two,” said Wilson about what he told House Republicans during Thursday’s closed caucus. “Let’s just let the budget issues settle and we’ll have a better feel for the landscape.”

Tax referendum question will not appear on November ballot, state officials confirm
Salt Lake Tribune, January 29, 2020
A referendum question on the Utah Legislature’s tax overhaul package will not appear on November’s ballot because lawmakers have already wiped out the unpopular reforms.

It’s official: Utah tax reform is repealed
Deseret News, January 29, 2020
The Utah Legislature acted swiftly Tuesday to repeal the unpopular tax reform package it passed just last month in a special session, voting shortly after state elections officials reported that a citizens referendum reached the signature threshold to get the changes on the November ballot. The House voted 70-1 for the repeal bill, HB185, with little debate. In the Senate, the vote was 27-0 after a lengthy explanation of what tax reform would have meant to Utahns and a few questions. Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill late Tuesday afternoon.
As session opens, lawmakers address ‘elephant’ in the room: Tax reform backlash
Deseret News, January 27, 2020
Kicking off the first day of the 2020 Utah legislative session Monday, House Speaker Brad Wilson’s opening speech addressed what he called the “elephant or, to be bipartisan, the donkey in the room,” the public backlash against tax reform. With the likely success of a referendum on the tax reform package to reduce state income taxes while raising sales taxes on food, gas and some services that was passed in a special legislative session last month getting on the November ballot, legislative leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert announced it would be repealed quickly. A vote on HB185, a bill introduced Monday to repeal the tax reform package, is expected Tuesday. Both Wilson, R-Kaysville, and Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, have said work on a new plan to deal with lagging sales tax revenues will wait until the 2021 Legislature. Wilson warned about the dangers of lawmaking by referendum.

Speaker Brad Wilson criticizes referendums fresh off of the Legislature’s tax reform collapse
Salt Lake Tribune, January 27, 2020
Days after an underdog grassroots group thwarted the state Legislature’s unpopular tax overhaul effort, House Speaker Brad Wilson opened the 45-day general session Monday by blasting such referendum efforts as “divisive” and often “short of facts.” A preliminary order of business for the Legislature this week will be to repeal the tax package they passed last month during a special session, an about-face compelled by a referendum effort that managed to collect tens of thousands of signatures in a matter of weeks.

First day of 2020 state legislative session wraps up; tax reform discussion still expected
The Herald Journal, January 27, 2020
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Cache County, said he expects the Tax Reform Bill to be repealed on Tuesday and it should take another two or three sessions to work out a new tax reformation to fit the needs of the state. “It is easy to criticize any problem you want but what we need is not criticism, it is suggestions,” said Hillyard, the sponsor of the contested tax bill.

Poll: ‘Very strong, negative response’ to tax reform
Deseret News, January 27, 2020
Even though a tax reform package was approved in a special session last month, the unpopular attempt to rebalance state revenues by reducing income taxes and raising sales taxes on food, gas and some services was expected to dominate the 2020 session of the Utah Legislature that begins meeting Monday.

Most Utahns oppose changing how education is funded, poll shows
Salt Lake Tribune, January 27, 2020
“What we aren’t open to is removing a constitutional guarantee for our students that’s replaced with nothing,” said UEA President Heidi Matthews. “We need to invest in each and every kid in our state. That is something that has been severely lacking in our budgeting process.”

Amid voter backlash, lawmakers will repeal tax reform package
Deseret News, January 23, 2020
The controversial tax reform package that sparked a referendum to let voters decide whether to raise sales taxes on food, gas and some services while reducing income taxes will be repealed, state leaders announced Thursday. “We applaud those who have engaged in the civic process and made their voices heard. We are not foes on a political battlefield, we are all Utahns committed to getting our tax policy right. That work is just beginning,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson said in a joint statement.

Utah’s Legislature, governor announce plan to repeal controversial tax reform law
Salt Lake Tribune, January 23, 2020
In a dramatic reversal, Gov. Gary Herbert and the state’s legislative leaders announced Thursday they are repealing the massive and controversial tax reform plan they passed just last month in a special session and have been fiercely defending ever since. They made the decision to retreat under mounting public pressure — after a bipartisan group declared it had gathered about 152,000 signatures from Utahns in favor of putting the tax legislation on the ballot for potential repeal.

Governor Herbert and legislative leaders announce repeal of tax reform bill
UtahPolicy.com, January 23, 2020
Republicans on Capitol Hill threw in the towel Thursday, saying next Monday they will repeal the just-passed tax reform package. As reported Wednesday in UtahPolicy.com it appears that the citizen referendum will likely get the required number of signatures, and be on the November ballot. But if there is no tax reform law, then there can’t be any repeal.

Tax reform referendum will make November ballot, signature gatherers say
Deseret News, January 21, 2020
Fred Cox, the former Republican state lawmaker who declared Tuesday more than enough voter signatures had been turned in statewide by the 5 p.m. deadline to put a referendum on tax reform on the November ballot, said he never doubted it could be done. “I knew that we would be successful. All we needed to have was people that would have a little faith, and they’ve shown that,” Cox told the Deseret News after announcing at least 152,000 Utahns signed referendum petitions seeking a vote to retain or repeal the recently passed legislation.

Tax reform repeal organizer says they have the signatures for November ballot
Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 2020
The leader of a referendum campaign seeking to overturn recent changes to the state’s tax laws declared an early, and unofficial, victory Tuesday shortly after the deadline for submitting petition signatures to county elections offices. Fred Cox, a former state lawmaker, said internal tracking showed that campaign volunteers collected roughly 152,000 signatures statewide — exceeding the 116,000 required to qualify for the ballot — and meeting minimum signature thresholds in at least 18 counties.

Tax referendum could complicate efforts to set next year's budget
UtahPolicy.com, January 21, 2020
If the anti-tax reform folks fall way short on their verified signatures, then there won’t be a lot of fall-out on Capitol Hill this session. The political ramifications, if any, will come in GOP legislative elections, either in spring party nominating conventions or in June primaries. But if the tax reform haters get just enough signatures, the 2020 Legislature is in big trouble as far as their work process is concerned. One idea is for the Legislature to just repeal the tax reform law, without waiting to know what voters will do next November.

Utah tax reform attracts opposites to referendum campaign
Salt Lake Triubune, January 16, 2020
A conservative Trump nominee and a liberal Salt Lake County councilwoman walk into a grocery store. That sentence has the trappings of a lazy political joke, but the scene also played out Sunday at the City Creek Harmons, where Ronald Mortensen and Shireen Ghorbani volunteered side-by-side encouraging customers to add their names to a referendum that could overturn recent changes to the state’s tax laws. Salt Lake Tribune, January 9, 2020
Gov. Gary Herbert is criticizing Harmons, the Utah-based chain of grocery stores, for joining a citizen campaign aimed at overturning recent changes to the state’s tax laws. The grocer announced Thursday that its 19 Utah locations would host signature gathering beginning on Saturday for the referendum effort, which launched after lawmakers approved a package of reforms in December that cut the state’s income tax while raising the sales tax on food.

Lawmakers frustrated by efforts to find new way to fund schools
UtahPolicy.com, January 9, 2020
If the Utah Education Association, and other public education advocates, don’t come to the table to have “honest discussions” about finding a long-term, stable education funding source, then another state income tax rate cut is coming, for sure, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson told UtahPolicy.com on Thursday. In short, said Wilson, the current state Constitution earmark that all income tax revenue go to public and higher education is actually HARMING public school financing, because as the General Fund’s sales tax lags behind income tax revenue growth, legislators and the governor will have to cut income taxes as they find ways to increase General Fund revenues.

Utah tax reform praised by legislative leaders as repeal efforts continue
Salt Lake Tribune, January 8, 2020
Tax reform may be a headache, state leaders acknowledged Tuesday, but they believe the sweeping overhaul package they recently passed will pay off — unless it’s derailed by a grassroots repeal effort. During an annual tax conference, the governor, Senate president and House speaker all argued that the difficult and divisive reform push will set up the state for continued prosperity and correct revenue imbalances that they said had threatened vital state programs. Moreover, the three Republican leaders said Utah is a model for the nation because it took action to avert a problem rather than responding only after disaster struck.

Utahns overwhelmingly oppose constitutional change to how education is funded
UtahPolicy.com, January 6, 2020
Two-thirds of Utah voters don’t want to amend the state Constitution to take away public education earmarks for the personal and corporate income tax revenue, a new poll by UtahPolicy.com/Y2 Analytics shows. The survey is yet another blow against the GOP Legislature’s move to reform the state tax system, making it more flexible and responsive to how the economy is changing.

Deborah Gatrell: Voters can put the brakes on this regressive tax overhaul
Salt Lake Tribune, January 4, 2020
Educators also watched tax reform closely. This plan cuts the Education Fund dramatically, “transferring” higher education back to the General Fund to “hold harmless” K-12 education — for one year. It gives legislators flexibility to shove higher education back into the Education Fund, freeing sales tax revenue for other projects and limiting desperately needed future K-12 education funding.

Poll: Majority of Utahns against tax reform
Deseret News, December 30, 2019
More than two-thirds of Utahns oppose the key pieces of state tax reform — lowering income taxes while raising sales taxes on food, gas and some services — that was passed in a special session of the Utah Legislature, according to a new poll released Monday. The UtahPolicy.com poll found that 68% of Utahns oppose tax reform legislation containing those elements, compared to 31% who said they are in favor. While the number of opponents are equally split between describing themselves as somewhat or strongly opposed, just 5% of supporters felt strongly.

Poll: Utahns overwhelmingly opposed to elements contained in tax reform
UtahPolicy.com, December 30, 2019
More than 2/3 of Utahns say they oppose the primary elements of the tax reform package passed by Utah lawmakers in a special session earlier this month.

Guest opinion: A new funding system may be best for Utah’s schools
Derek Monson, Sutherland Institute, Deseret News, December 27, 2019
The passage of tax reform is only the beginning of the education funding discussion. During the reform’s many deliberations, important policy questions — like how Utah should balance income taxes and sales taxes, and how tax relief should be distributed — were addressed. However, one question was not: How should the state fund public schools? If tax reform is any indicator, the answer may be with revenue sources other than income taxes.

Tax reform referendum is nonpartisan ‘Utahns revolt,’ supporters say
Deseret News, December 23, 2019
Backers of a citizens referendum on Utah’s just-passed tax reform law say they can’t print the petitions fast enough. “We have plenty of people who want to sign,” said Fred Cox, a former Republican legislator who helped organize the effort to undo the tax structure approved Dec. 12.

All Utah’s declared candidates for governor — but one — endorse referendum to dump tax reform package
Salt Lake Tribune, December 23, 2019
All but one of the declared candidates for Utah governor so far — both Republican and Democrat — endorsed on Monday a referendum that seeks to allow voters to veto the new tax reform package passed earlier this month. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is the lone holdout. His campaign said he is unable to endorse the referendum because the election process is overseen by Cox’s office — but noted that he opposed raising the sales tax on food before the special session of the Legislature earlier this month approved that.

Gov. Gary Herbert signs Utah tax reform bill
Salt Lake Tribune, December 19, 2019
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday that he has signed legislation reforming the state’s tax code that was recently approved by lawmakers in a special session. The bill cuts overall taxes by roughly $160 million net through a combination of decreased income taxes and increased sales taxes. Several groups opposed the legislation — and efforts have begun to overturn the bill through a referendum — particularly for its inclusion of a higher sales tax on groceries.

Herbert defends tax reform against growing criticism
UtahPolicy.com, December 19, 2019
Governor Gary Herbert pushed back against critics of the recently passed tax reform bill on Thursday, brushing back assertions that the process was rushed or that it hurts lower-income Utahns.

Opinion: Duplicate efforts to overturn Utah’s tax reform law are doomed
Jay Evenson, Deseret News, December 19, 2019
One group will count on volunteers to gather the signatures needed to overturn Utah’s new tax reform law. The other group says that’s naive and promises to use paid signature gatherers; but it admits that, as yet, it has no money. Naive is as naive does, I suppose. But if both efforts go forward as described in a Deseret News report Tuesday, I wouldn’t count on seeing a tax reform veto on your 2020 ballot, no matter how angry you may feel about it.

Poll shows what Utahns want from tax reform
Deseret News, December 19, 2019
Utahns’ top concern about the Legislature’s just-completed tax overhaul is whether they’ll end up paying more to the state, according to a new poll released Thursday, but Gov. Gary Herbert said they shouldn’t worry. “They want to pay less? That’s going to happen,” the governor told the Deseret News after signing the massive tax reform bill passed in a special legislative session Dec. 12 that cuts state income taxes while raising state sales taxes on food, gas and some services.

Poll: What do Utahns want from tax reform? A smaller tax burden and guaranteed money for education
UtahPolicy.com, December 18, 2019
Utah lawmakers touted the tax reform bill passed last week as delivering one of the largest tax cuts in the history of Utah. That part of the bill is exactly what Utah voters wanted from the tax overhaul effort according to a new Utah Political Trends poll. But, in other areas, lawmakers fell short of expectations.

Utah elections office throws out an anti-tax reform referendum a day after it was filed
Salt Lake Tribune, December 18, 2019
The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Wednesday halted one of two citizen referendums seeking to overturn tax reform legislation passed last week. It rejected the application by The People’s Right because only four of its six official sponsors voted in the last general election, and five are required by state law, said a letter by Derek Brenchley, deputy director of elections for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

2nd tax reform referendum rejected
Deseret News, December 18, 2019
State elections officials on Wednesday rejected a second referendum on the tax reform bill passed last week in a special session of the Utah Legislature. The application by the People’s Right just before Tuesday’s deadline included sponsors who had not voted in a general election in the state within the last three years as required by law, a letter from Utah deputy elections director Derek Brenchley stated.

Another group launches referendum to dump Utah’s new tax reform
Salt Lake Tribune, December 18, 2019
A second group launched a referendum Tuesday hoping to give voters a chance to repeal controversial Utah tax reform legislation that passed in a special session last week — saying the first group that filed separately is doomed to fail because it refuses to use paid signature gatherers. The new group is called The People’s Right (TPR) and is led by Steve Maxfield — a former independent candidate for lieutenant governor. His group also sued unsuccessfully when the Legislature repealed and replaced a voter-passed initiative legalizing medical marijuana.

Bipartisan Utah group starts voter referendum to repeal new tax reform package
Salt Lake Tribune, December 17, 2019
A group headed by a conservative former legislator is attempting to give voters the chance to reject the new tax reform package that passed in a special session last week. Former Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, filed papers Monday with the lieutenant governor’s office to start the process to gather signatures. It potentially could block the bill from taking effect until voters decide whether to repeal it in November’s general election.

Gov. Gary Herbert: Why Utah needed tax reform
Guest Editorial, Deseret News, December 15, 2019
Utah governance is defined not only by our thriving and diverse economy, but also by our willingness to look down the road and tackle tough issues before they become a crisis. Reforming tax policy is always difficult. It’s technical, it’s complicated and it can be difficult to both explain and to understand. So, when Utahns express concerns about the upcoming changes to Utah’s tax code, I understand their anxiety.

What’s next for Utah’s tax reform bill and what does it mean for you?
Salt Lake Tribune, December 14, 2019
Utah lawmakers passed a package of new tax laws late Thursday night that gives an income tax cut and a sales tax hike to virtually every resident in the state. The changes follow months of discussion by lawmakers, advocates and special interest groups, and should bolster the state’s general fund ahead of budget talks when the Legislature reconvenes next month.

Utah educators express concern over implications of tax reform
KSL.com, December 13, 2019
With little to no language addressing education specifically in the more than 200-page tax reform proposal Utah lawmakers passed Thursday night in a special legislative session, there is serious concern over the immediate future of school funding across the state. “We are emphatic and vehement in our demand for a Constitutional guarantee that assures our students have what they need in public education,” Heidi Matthews, the president of Utah Education Association, explained. “We support having a long-term stable tax structure in this state. We need it to assure that our students are going to have what they need, and that’s the piece that has not been heard.”

In our opinion: Tax reform amounted to a job half done
Deseret News Editorial Board, December 13, 2019
Utah lawmakers face a difficult challenge in reforming taxes to reflect a changing economy. The bill they passed in a special session Thursday certainly shifts the tax burden, but it isn’t close to being the final, complete solution. For one thing, the bill leaves education hanging, and that’s not a good situation in a state where large families already place heavy burdens on classrooms and teachers.

Will there be a referendum on Utah’s tax reform?
Salt Lake Tribune, December 13, 2019
UEA President Heidi Matthews said the teachers group is not supporting a referendum. “Right now, we are really working to just mobilize our people, bringing together an education-supporting coalition to ensure that in the general session, public education is going to have growing investments,” Matthews said. “We’re skeptical based on our history, but we’re mobilizing to make sure these promises are kept.” She said the focus is on “looking to the future and holding our legislators’ feet to the fire on education.”

GOP ex-lawmaker readies challenge to tax reform passed by legislature
KUTV2 News, December 13, 2019
“Is the UEA on board with a referendum?“ 2News asked Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews. “We’re not,” she replied, saying while the 18,000-member UEA was dead set against what passed on Thursday night, lawmakers have given assurances on education funding — and persuading them to follow through is the better course. “I think the most important thing we can do is stay strong, and hold our legislators’ feet to the fire,“ she said.

Utah lawmakers OK tax overhaul, measure will cut taxes by $154.5 million
Standard Examiner, December 13, 2019
Though the change passed by wide margins, 20-7 in the Senate and 43-27 in the House, it has plenty of critics. No Democrats voted for the bill, according to UtahPolicy.com, and it had garnered opposition and criticism from advocates for education and the poor, worried about the jump in the sales tax on food. Rep. Lou Shurtliff, an Ogden Democrat, voted against the measure. She said Friday that instead of cutting the income tax rate, the funding should have been pumped into education. “We have been at the bottom of the barrel for 20 years,” she said, alluding to per-student funding in Utah relative to other states.

Tax reform passes after last-minute changes that give checks to Utahns
Deseret News, December 13, 2109
Utahns will pay less in income tax but more in sales tax on food, gas and some services under a massive tax reform bill passed by lawmakers in a special legislative session Thursday night following last-minute changes that include sending out checks to low- and moderate-income residents. Some Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in the House and Senate in voting against SB2001, but the bill passed the Senate 20-7 and then the House, 43-27 after the version advanced Monday at the final meeting of the Legislature’s Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force was substituted on the Senate floor — twice.

Utah lawmakers pass sweeping tax reform, impacting paychecks and grocery bills
Salt Lake Tribune, December 13, 2019
Utahns can expect to see bigger paychecks and bigger tax returns next year, but also a bigger bill for their groceries and other purchases, after lawmakers approved a package of new tax laws during a special legislative session Thursday. The vote — 43-27 in the House and 19-7 in the Senate — followed months of discussions by a special legislative task force, formed in the wake of a failed reform effort earlier this year. It was approved with only Republican support, although several members of the majority party joined House and Senate Democrats in voting against the bill.

Lawmakers pass sweeping tax reform measure
UtahPolicy.com, December 12, 2019
After months of debate and public meetings, the Utah Legislature passed a sweeping tax reform package on Thursday evening, despite vocal opposition from many members of the public.

Robert Gehrke: Lawmakers will pass a major tax overhaul. It’s a mistake and here’s why.
Salt Lake Tribune, December 12, 2019
Unfortunately, the bill has one big failure — it doesn’t really address the problems lawmakers set out to solve. It will do long-term harm to public education; it will likely hurt some low-income families by raising the sales tax on food; it inadequately addresses sales taxes on services, leaving out industries with high-priced lobbyists and instead targeting landscapers, Lyft drivers — even streaming services and dating apps (both ends of “Netflix and chill” as resident Steve Hiatt put it at a recent hearing).

Tribune Editorial: Utah tax ‘reform’ package should be rejected
Salt Lake Tribune, December 11, 2019
After the creation of a task force that didn’t understand its task, a listening tour where no one listened and the drafting of a tax reform package that doesn’t meet any reasonable definition of reform, the Utah Legislature has been called into an unwise special session Thursday to consider a measure that almost no one who isn’t a lawmaker supports.

Utah Sen. Hillyard expects quick approval of tax plan during Legislature's special session
Standard-Examiner, December 10, 2019
After getting the green light from the task force that shaped a proposed overhaul of Utah’s tax system, the lawmaker who helped lead the group expects quick approval when legislators meet to consider it. That will likely come Thursday, the date of a special session, announced by Gov. Gary Herbert Tuesday evening. If the plan is approved, and Hillyard thinks prospects are favorable, Utahns could see the impacts next month — more take-home pay in their paychecks starting in January thanks to the income tax rate cut contained in the proposal.

Gov. Gary Herbert calls special session on Utah tax reform
Deseret News, December 10, 2019
It’s official: The Utah Legislature will be tackling tax reform in a special session on Thursday. Gov. Gary Herbert signed the call Tuesday for the special session, informing the full Legislature it will gavel into session Thursday with tax reform scheduled for 5 p.m.

Special session of the Utah Legislature called by Gov. Herbert to vote on tax reform
Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 2019
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert formally called a special session of the Legislature for Thursday to consider a massive, and controversial, tax reform plan. Herbert issued the call a day after a divided legislative panel voted to advance the tax cut.

Editorial by Senate Democrats: Utah tax reform plan is unacceptable
Salt Lake Tribune, December 10, 2019
We’ve come far from the pledges made last spring to pass a “40-year” solution to our state’s tax structure imbalance. When the task force was assembled, the stated purpose of this journey was to broaden and stabilize the state’s tax base to address the long-term economic shift away from a goods-based to a service-based economy. Quickly, the focus turned to removing the constitutional earmark dedicating income tax revenue to funding education. Education funding in Utah is the lowest in the nation. Utah decided in 1947 to dedicate income tax to our students. We have not honored that promise to our families.

Editorial: Should Utah’s income tax be divorced from education?
Jay Evensen, Deseret News, December 10, 2019
...we are being told that a special session is necessary this week because, among other things, it includes a 0.29% income tax cut that Utahns should start enjoying in January, and because the state has studied this long enough and waiting for next month’s regular session would bog it down amid a host of other legislative concerns. This might be true if the entire reform plan were on the table. Instead, Utahns may be getting a cut in the income tax now, which certainly would hurt education, while getting only a promise that the special session will include some other funding source for schools, most likely through property taxes.

Days away from potential special session, public weighs in on Utah tax reform one last time
Fox 13, December 9, 2019
Teachers and educators are still uncertain about the funding they'll receive and where it would come from. "This bill represents $650 million cut from public education, cut from the public education funding account," said Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews. "Without those funds, it's difficult to see how any of the plans that are out there can be addressed."

Legislature wraps public comment meetings on controversial tax restructuring plan
KUTV2, December 9, 2019
“Slow this down, do not have a special session when this tax reform bill that’s being considered is only a piece of what’s needed in the overhaul,” said Heidi Matthews, President of the Utah Education Association. Matthews says the current iteration of the tax proposal would cut $650 million from public education funding in Utah, with no guarantee for where that money will be made up.

Utah’s tax task force votes to recommend bill to full Legislature
KSL.com, December 9 2019
Heidi Matthews of the Utah Education Association called the proposal an “incomplete” and “dangerous” bill that sends a “demoralizing message to already overwhelmed” education system in the state by cutting taxes before prioritizing teachers. “How will this new round of tax cuts impact today’s kindergarten students?” Matthews said. “The reality is we have no idea.” “Cutting $650 million from the education fund with nothing but an I.O.U. for the general session is not enough for us to bank on,” Matthews said, adding the bill “simply isn’t special enough” for a special session.

Legislative panel recommends sweeping changes to Utah’s tax code
Salt Lake Tribune, December 9, 2019
A state legislative panel on Monday voted in support of a massive tax reform plan, teeing the package up for consideration in a possible special session later this week. But the task force’s decision was by no means resounding, with a Republican — Rep. Tim Quinn — siding with two Democratic legislators in opposing the draft tax proposal. To Quinn, the plan he and his colleagues have spent months crafting wouldn’t make significant strides toward addressing the core budgetary problems that brought the group together.

Utah’s tax task force votes to recommend bill to full Legislature
Deseret News, December 9, 2019
The state’s tax reform task force voted 6-3 to recommend a 199-page draft bill to the full Legislature Monday, less than three days after the bill was unveiled to the general public. The vote comes in the same week lawmakers are expected to convene in a special session to address a sweeping change to Utah’s tax code. More than three hours of mixed public reaction greeted the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force as it held its last public meeting Monday night.

Panel approves tax overhaul proposal. Special session up next
UtahPolicy.com, December 9, 2019
Almost hidden among all the numbers and charts in the final Tax Reform Task Force meeting Monday night is this little nugget: While any number of low-income advocates say this tax reform package -- in the main -- is regressive -- that is, it harms poorer Utahns more than richer Utahns, in fact it may do just the opposite.

Commentary: Utah tax reform should not harm school districts
Salt Lake City School Board, Salt Lake Tribune, December 9, 2019
We write today, as a body elected to represent Salt Lake City, united in our concerns about the proposal by the Utah Legislature’s Tax Reform Task Force. We know legislators care about public education. Yet their proposal concerns us deeply – particularly the discussion of removing the constitutional earmark for public education and the prospect of yet another property tax equalization. It is imperative that legislators understand the negative impact this proposal will have on our constituents.

In our opinion: Proactively reforming Utah taxes is good, just don’t rush it
Deseret News Editorial, December 9, 2019
With so many moving parts, tax reform deserves a comprehensive look in the regular session, not a partial solution in a special session. The needs and concerns of all Utahns, especially the low- to middle-income folks who will be most impacted by higher food and gas prices, deserve as much.

Tribune Editorial: Our tax future needs a real fix, not a quick one
Salt Lake Tribune, December 9, 2019
As Utah legislators lurch toward an overhaul of the state tax code next week, they are looking a little lonely. While there have been a parade of voices pointing out flaws in their tax plan, there have been scarcely few people who have spoken up in favor. Even among Republican legislators there is hesitancy. In fact, to the extent there is a consensus in this state, it’s one that opposes this plan.

Most taxpayers would see a cut under latest tax reform proposal
UtahPolicy.com, December 9, 2019
A new summary crib sheet on the proposed tax overall bill, to be considered Monday night in the last (it is hoped) Tax Reform Task Force meeting, has a few new numbers in it, but no great surprises from a previous version.

Legislators eyeing $160 million tax cut as part of tax reform package
UtahPolicy.com, December 9, 2019
Utah GOP legislative leaders are looking to give citizens a $160 million-plus income tax cut next year -- double the size they were talking about just a few weeks ago.

Speaker Brad Wilson: Utahns deserve a return on historic growth through tax reform
Editorial, Deseret News, December 8, 2019
Implementing tax reform will ensure our economic successes become not merely a footnote in a history book, but a lasting legacy of prosperity and achievement. In addition to helping Utah families by enabling them to keep more of their paychecks, the proposal reshapes the state budget to keep taxes low and government small — all while continuing to prioritize and expand funding for education. The proposal also embodies the best of our compassionate selves by enhancing funding to the elderly and those struggling to make ends meet.

Utahns would see $160 million tax cut under latest tax reform plan
Deseret News, December 6, 2019
The overall tax cut in the tax reform plan that appears headed to a special session of the Utah Legislature next week is now twice as large as before, doubling from $80 million to $160 million Friday after new revenue estimates were released showing state coffers are expected to grow by almost half a billion dollars. “This year’s revenue estimates show that our economy continues to thrive,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. “This success is due to hard-working Utahns. Our continuing efforts to find efficiencies in state government and the success of our economy have helped produce another year of strong revenues.”

Utah Democrats pitch alternate tax reform: Progressive income tax and business receipts levy
Salt Lake Tribune, December 5, 2019

Wealthy Utahns would pay a higher income tax rate and the state’s sales tax would be replaced with a tax on businesses’ gross receipts under a tax plan released Thursday by members of the House Democratic Caucus. The proposal is unlikely to gain traction in Utah’s Republican-dominated Legislature, but is intended as an alternative to controversial reforms backed by legislative leaders and currently under consideration by a legislative task force.

Utah’s tax reform plan may come with rolling property tax hikes you haven’t heard much about
Salt Lake Tribune, December 5, 2019
Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews said she’s encouraged by some of the elements in Millner’s plan, particularly that the state would commit to funding inflation and student enrollment growth every year. But she also worries that the Legislature is failing to look beyond a minimum funding floor when schools are in need of significant investment. And she questioned the approach of passing a big income tax cut next week when Utah voters could not weigh in on a potential constitutional amendment until November 2020 at the earliest. “Having a special session without all of these pieces in place," she said, “is entirely premature.”

Special session on tax reform ‘imminent’
Deseret News, December 4, 2019
GOP legislative leaders are set to sit down with Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday to start wrapping up the details of a special session on tax reform that’s expected to be called for Dec. 12, even though some substantial changes to the latest plan are still in the works. “I think you can say it’s imminent there will be a special session,” Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told the Deseret News Wednesday. Adams said he and House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, plan to tell the governor there’s enough support in both the House and Senate to warrant him calling a special session.

Education funding proposal likely won't be ready for Dec. 12 special session
UtahPolicy.com, December 4, 2019
While there will not be a compromise ready for a Dec. 12 special legislative session between GOP state leaders and the public education community, what lawmakers ultimately do in amending the state Constitution’s income tax earmark for schools is critical to a comprehensive tax reform overall.

Editorial: Utah tax reform: Four things to keep in mind
Jay Evensen, December 4, 2019
Utah lawmakers seem intent on holding a special session a week from Thursday to begin passing a tax overhaul package that has more moving parts than anything you will assemble Christmas morning. In government, parts tend to move in unintended ways. In that sense, haste may not always make waste, but it may make things people can’t foresee. But if legislators insist on being hasty, here are four things they at least ought to keep in mind.

Editorial: Tax reform should not take money from Utah schools
Gail Miller, Salt Lake Tribune, December 1, 2019
For me, the bottom line is that nothing will keep our economy growing more than our investment in education. It’s the right thing to do for our economy, for our businesses and for our families. We should leave our Utah Constitution alone and invest in the long-range education plan that so many good people took so much time to develop.

Utah lawmakers ‘still headed’ for Dec. 12 special session on taxes
Deseret News, November 30, 2019
Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said tax reform has already received more attention than it would have during the regular annual 45-day legislative session given that the task force has been working since the summer when a series of town hall meetings were held around the state. “We’ve taken hours and hours and hours of public comment. I think the task force has listened. I think they’re responding to the public as best they can. There’s been a myriad of changes to the bill. There’ll be additional changes,” Adams said. “Eventually, I think, we’ll have a bill we can vote on, and I think we’re still headed to the 12th.”

No vote on tax proposal as task force is peppered with questions, complaints from the public
Salt Lake Tribune, November 26, 2019
Michele Jones, a high school math teacher, questioned the characterization of some task force members that education would be “held harmless” by cuts to the income tax and, potentially, an constitutional amendment. “You’re balancing the budget on the back of our students,” Jones said. “You’re moving money around to fix a sales-tax problem — which is a real problem — and you’re making our students pay for it. And I think that’s wrong, I think that’s morally wrong.”

Utah’s tax reform task force not done yet as more questions raised
Deseret News, November 26, 2019
Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, told the task force they braved the snowstorm because income taxes, which under the Utah Constitution must be spent on schools, are being cut. “This absence of investment in our kids is what’s wrong,” she said. Amending the Utah Constitution to remove the earmark on income taxes for education is part of the tax reform agenda, but, like a separate proposal aimed at identifying additional funds for schools, will wait until the 2020 Legislature.

Utah teachers fear tax reform plan will jeopardize education funding
KUTV-2, November 25, 2019
The audience at the Capitol on Monday night was filled with dozens of teachers concerned about education funding. “When there’s more revenue, our kids should be getting it,” said Michele Jones, a math teacher at Cyprus High School in Magna.Educators voiced support for keeping the requirement that all income tax go toward education, especially since the revenue it generates has been rising in the strong economy. Lawmakers want to do away with the requirement.

New draft tax reform proposal has smaller tax cut, still puts sales tax back on food
UtahPolicy.com, November 25, 2019
The latest tax reform package coming from leaders of the Legislature's Tax Reform Task Force has been made public, and there are only a few changes from a plan released several weeks ago, first reported by UtahPolicy.com.

Special session for tax reform will likely be Dec. 12
UtahPolicy.com, November 25, 2019
Several sources tell UtahPolicy.com that legislative leaders are targeting December 12 for a special session on tax reform.

Editorial: Utah’s rushed tax reform is yielding a bad product
Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune, November 25, 2019
On the surface it looks like legislators have worked it out so they can tell voters next year that they have cut taxes while assuring an annual property tax increase that school districts, not lawmakers, will get blamed for. And right now lawmakers can’t look their constituents in the eye and tell them how they will be impacted by this convoluted mess, because the whole thing is still half-baked.

‘Tough time’ predicted for Utah lawmakers’ funding plan for schools in tax reform package
Deseret News, November 22, 2019
“The overall tax proposal, plus the education piece, cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools. That’s not good for kids. It’s wrong for our teachers. It’s wrong for our schools. It’s wrong for our students and it’s wrong for Utah,” Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews said Thursday.

Under a new tax plan, one-third of Utahns would pay more
Salt Lake Tribune, November 20, 2019
A significant tax cut for Utahns is the key sweetening ingredient in a sweeping tax plan that state lawmakers have been assembling in recent months. And while the most recent public version of the proposal does lessen the overall tax burden by about $80 million, nearly a third of individual tax filers would actually pay more, according to a legislative staff analysis.

Education funding compromise will focus on ways to boost money for Utah's schools from property taxes. Lawmakers plan to unveil tax reform proposal on Friday
Utah Policy, November 20, 2019
Utah legislative leaders believe they are closing in on a school funding compromise with education stakeholders that will allow them to move forward in an effort to remove the constitutional earmark for education funding. It's possible that some elements of that compromise plan could be made public next week.

‘We’re getting close’ on tax reform, Utah House speaker says
Deseret News, November 20, 2019
The Utah Legislature’s sweeping tax reform efforts could be wrapped up shortly, state House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said Wednesday, telling House Republicans that “we’re close” to being able to hold a special session within a few weeks.

Teachers, others raise concern about new tax reform proposal
Deseret News, November 7, 2019
“From our expert vantage point, the tax bill language is not fair, is not just and is not good for kids,” Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews told members of the Legislature’s Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force, citing “massive” cuts that would be made in income taxes without a new plan for paying for schools.

State School Board urges lawmakers to maintain ‘a constitutional guarantee’ for education funding
Deseret News, November 7, 2019
Hours before a legislative task force was to consider the latest proposal to reform taxes, the Utah State Board of Education approved a statement that emphasizes the importance of “maintaining a constitutional guarantee for education funding.”

Tax reform bill proposes bigger income tax cut and new fuel taxes
Salt Lake Tribune, November 7, 2019
Legislative leaders have alluded to ongoing negotiations regarding a new funding source for schools, and a summary of the tax bill includes a reference to “holding public education harmless.” But no details on a potential funding structure to replace the education fund were included in the bill, or divulged during the tax force hearing.

Under current tax reform proposal, individuals would pay less but some businesses would pay more
UtahPolicy.com, November 7, 2019
At the very bottom of a new "summary" of the large draft tax reform bill are some interesting numbers: Individuals will actually get a $132 million tax cut, and businesses will pay $52 million more.

Editorial: Why Utah’s tax reform proposal is seriously flawed
Marina Gomberg, Salt Lake Tribune, November 2, 2019
There are several problematic parts making up the disastrous whole proposed by Rep. Francis Gibson and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, but there are two things in particular that seem at best like a reckless abandonment of our community values and at worst a purposeful attack on our lower income families.

Utah’s top earners would get the largest share of the proposed tax cut
Salt Lake Tribune, October 29, 2019
The biggest chunk, about 40%, of the tax relief under a proposal pushed by Utah’s Republican lawmakers would go to those making $113,000 a year and above. That’s about 20% of all income tax filers.

In our opinion: Don’t rush major Utah tax reforms
Deseret News, October 26, 2019
Whether most Utahns know it or not, their Legislature is on the verge of a tax overhaul so large it would touch many of them in ways that are not yet clear. The last thing the state needs is for this process to be hurried.

Editorial: Legislators offer tax cuts to imaginary friends
George Pyle, Salt Lake Tribune, October 26, 2019
Leaders of the Utah Legislature are planning a major assault on the state’s tax structure. Not only do they want to cut income taxes for the rich and raise sales taxes on the poor, they also plan to end the constitutional restriction that all state income tax revenues flow to public education.

Utah governor: Special session on tax reform ‘still on the table’
Deseret News, October 25, 2019
Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he’s ready to call lawmakers into a special session of the Utah Legislature before the end of the year to deal with tax reform, but only if the House and Senate can agree on a proposal.

Tax reform nears the finish line
Utah Policy, October 24, 2019
The Legislature's Tax Reform Task Force is quickly moving towards hard recommendations on substantially changing the state's taxing system -- either at its November 7 or November 21 meeting.

Editorial: Looking to get the gears moving on education? Start with this important step
A. Scott Anderson, Deseret News, Oct 24, 2019
The “big gear” in education excellence is quite simple — pay teachers more. Among the myriad proposals to boost public education achievement that have been suggested over many years, this is the structural solution that will produce results.

Editorial: The Utah Legislature’s tax scheme relies on faulty math, cowardly politics and misplaced priorities
Robert Gherke, Salt Lake Tribune, October 23, 2019
The biggest change would be to rewrite Utah’s Constitution to get rid of a provision that has existed since 1931 dictating that all income tax revenue be spent on education. The sponsors contend it will give legislators the flexibility to spend money on other critical needs without harming public and higher education.

A tax cut? A tax hike? New tax on candy and soda? Competing Utah tax plans emerge.
Salt Lake Tribune, October 22, 2019
The co-chairmen of a legislative task force have recommended a $75 million tax cut, combining a higher sales tax on groceries with a lower state income tax rate in order to smooth out a growing disparity between Utah’s sales and income tax revenues.

Legislators target December special session to pass tax reform package
Utah Policy, October 22, 2019
Utah legislative leaders are looking toward an early December special session to take up broad tax system reform sources tell UtahPolicy.com.

Despite pleas to 'don't rush,' Utah tax task force advances reform proposal
Deseret News, October 22, 2019
Nearly 30 people lined up at the Legislature’s tax reform task force meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns about proposals for restructuring Utah’s tax system that include restoring the full sales tax on food, adding sales tax to gasoline purchases and services while cutting income taxes.

More Utah tax reform proposals surface, including tax on soda and candy
Deseret News, October 21, 2019
At least four other tax reform proposals have been submitted for a Utah legislative task force to consider, including everything from limiting the restoration of the full sales tax on food just to soda and candy, to imposing a statewide property tax that would bring in some $100 million.

Editorial: When it comes to tax reform, slow and steady wins the race
Deseret News, October 19, 2019
The plan is so vast and complicated that a special session now would feel as if the process were being hurried without adequate time for debate, amendment and, most importantly, public input.

Editorial: Latest legislative tax plan is more of a patch
Salt Lake Tribune, October 19, 2019
The summer-long legislative roadshow to present Utah’s tax problem to the citizenry was supposed to sharpen the focus. But the show — more PR event than listening tour — didn’t settle anything.

Utahns would pay new sales taxes on food, gas and services but less income tax under tax reform plan
Deseret News, October 18, 2019
A new state tax reform proposal released Friday that slices Utah’s income tax rate while slapping on hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales taxes on food, gas and services still means a tax break for most Utahns regardless of their earnings, the lawmakers who authored the plan said.

New Utah tax plan: Consumers pay more on groceries, gas, veterinarian bills, save money on children
Salt Lake Tribune, October 18, 2019
Large families — particularly those above the median income level — stand to benefit the most from a proposed tax overhaul that initially would cut Utah revenue collections by a combined $75 million.

Lawmakers will propose big tax cut, adding sales tax back on food in tax overhaul proposal
Utah Policy, October 17, 2019
Utahns would see upwards of a 10 percent cut in their state income taxes, along with some other income tax savings, in a comprehensive state tax system overall coming from this summer's Tax Reform Task Force, UtahPolicy.com has learned.

Polling shows Utah voters may not be on board with tax reform ideas|
Utah Policy, October 17, 2019
A GOP-dominated legislative task force will put forward later Friday some ideas on reforming the state's tax system -- seeking public comment in a hearing next week.

Utah tax reform leaders call for tax hike on groceries with some relief for low-income residents
Salt Lake Tribune, October 16, 2019
Two legislators leading the charge to overhaul the state’s tax system said their initial proposal will call for reinstating the full sales tax on food, a change that poverty advocates have decried as burdensome to the state’s lower-income residents.

Tax cut by the end of the year? Utah House speaker hopeful
Deseret News, October 16, 2019
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson said Wednesday he’d like to see a special legislative session on tax reform before the end of the year so that a tax cut can be put in place at the start of 2020 — an election year for all House members and about half of the Senate.

Guest opinion: Takeaways from Utah’s tax town hall meetings
Heidi Matthews, UtahPolicy.com, September 5, 2019
While I appreciate the focus on education funding, I’m nervous for our students. A report recently released by the Utah Foundation finds that Utah may be falling short of its potential due to lack of education funding. What student potential are we leaving on the table by having the lowest funded schools in the nation? I hope this question comes up in the discussion. I also hope our elected policymakers will recall past promises that as the economy grows, income tax revenues will grow and thereby increase the revenue for public education.