After serving two terms in the Utah House, representing District 54, Heber Republican Tim Quinn decided to call it a day.
In a final interview, he talked to KPCW about some of the issues that dominated his tenure—certainly, tax reform and education funding among those. Rick Brough has details.
Quinn said that his time on Capitol Hill was eye-opening, in positive and negative ways.
On the positive side, he found that lawmaking didn’t involve bitter personal fights between the opposing parties.
“I went there, assuming that the two sides, two political parties, were enemies. We wouldn’t get along. We would constantly argue and debate and fight. And that was, there could be nothing further from the truth. While we had vigorous debates, the minute those debates were over, we were all truly friendly with one another. And I consider two of the Democrats, Brian King and Andrew Stoddard, very good friends of mine.”
On the other hand, he said that Utah is different from other states, but not immune to political maneuvering.
“There are still a lot of games that are played. There’s a lot of politics in politics. And I don’t think that there should be. It’s one thing to have a strategy, it’s another thing to play a game. There’s some quid pro quo that goes on. And I think every bill oughta have its day in the light, and an up-and-down vote be placed on it. And sometimes, many times unfortunately, that’s not the case. There were too many games, too many deals being made.”
Quinn might be remembered most for his attempt to reform the state’s sales taxes.
He recalled that in the 2019 Legislature, his tax reform proposal failed in the Senate. Later, in the summer and fall of that year, a Tax Reform Task Force did pass a bill in a special session. Quinn said he opposed that legislation, because it restored the full sales tax on food and didn’t solve the problems it meant to tackle.
He said it was repealed on the second day of the next regular legislative session.
In the end, he said the future of tax reform may have been decided by the passage in November of Amendment G to the Utah Constitution.
“Because it gives the Legislature flexibility on how to create tax policy in a holistic way, instead of having that firewall there for education. So whether a massive tax-reform bill comes up in the next two, three, four, five years, I don’t know. I would kind of doubt it, simply because of the Constitutional Amendment that passed in November.”
Quinn said the perception that the legislature doesn’t care about education is not true. And he argued that removing the exclusive focus of the income tax on schools is a positive thing.
“We are the only state in the country that constitutionally dedicated 100 percent of income tax, both personal and corporate, to education. There wasn’t another state that did that. I know we keep talking about the lowest in WPU. And that’s a phenomenon that I’ve talked about several times. There’s many factors that go into that. One, we have more children than any other state per adult, and second, we have 70 percent of our land that’s owned by the federal government that we don’t receive any property tax from. That’s what most states fuel their education funding with is property taxes. So because of that the WPU is always going to be low. But what we fail to remember and realize and state often enough, I believe, is that Utah is always first, second, or third in the nation in the percentage of their state budget that they do spend on education.”
Looking at other ways to fund education, Quinn said he supports the proposal to give teachers a bonus—but regarding some details that have sparked controversy, he said he doesn’t know much about those.
Among other items, Quinn regretted he wasn’t able to restore the child exemption credit, which was taken away by the federal tax reform in 2017. But he was proud of passing an eminent domain bill which says that governments or utilities cannot undervalue the private property they are seizing.
Quinn said he doesn’t know if he will have any political future, but it won’t be in the Wasatch Back. He’s moved to St. George, away from the snow.
He said his successor, Republican Mike Kohler, will do fine on Capitol Hill.