As the Legislature’s tax reform task force tours the state, without making a stop along the Wasatch Back, the Utah House Democrats have also been hosting their own town halls to hear from the public what they’d like to see in the state’s tax restructuring efforts.
Soon after the legislative session ended this spring, House Democrats launched a series of public meetings to engage Utahns in the tax reform discussion. District 28 Rep. Brian King feels the public didn’t know why the State was talking about tax reform and how it would impact them.
"More likely than not, we're going to have some changes on how the budget is structured," King said. "Those may have an immediate and significant impact on how people, what they see their money being spent for and how they see their money being earmarked."
The Democrats’ event is somewhat of an interactive process. After a presentation on tax reform, participants can go around to poster boards featuring different solutions that have been floated for tax reform and put sticky notes on them with their thoughts and questions.
King isn’t on the Legislature’s tax task force, but he has an idea of what he would and wouldn’t like to see in a tax overhaul. King says he doesn’t want low-income individuals to be impacted disproportionately by a new tax code. He’d prefer no tax on groceries and instituting a state earned-income tax credit. As for removing the constitutional earmark on income tax for education to give the Legislature more options in funding allocation, King isn’t sure the Legislature would fund education without that requirement.
“Some people say, 'let's get rid of it to give us greater flexibility, trust us, trust us at the Legislature, we’ll give as much or more money to public and higher education that way," King said. "Well, I just don't think there's any good reason to believe that's true.”
Heber Republican Rep. Tim Quinn, who sponsored this year’s tax bill and sits on the tax task force, says he’s not sure when a special session to discuss tax reform would happen, though he thinks the sooner, the better. King thinks it’s unlikely a special session will happen this year, and if it doesn’t, tax reform may be postponed until 2021.
“This is such a complex, difficult issue. I think until we get a better sense, a better consensus emerging on what we're going to do and how we're going to do it, that it's probably going to be pushed down the road," King said. "I don't know that we're going to deal with it in the 2020 session, either, because it's an election year next year, and so I think people are going to be a little concerned about messing around too much with tax policy there or anything controversial.”
The town hall is Tuesday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wasatch County Senior Center.