Around 20 or so Wasatch Back residents attended a tax reform town hall on Tuesday evening. The event, held by The Utah House Democratic Caucus, provided residents an opportunity to weigh in on Utah tax reform.
In Utah, income tax collected by the state is earmarked to be spent only on public and higher education. Gas tax is spent on transportation needs. The rest of the state’s entire budget is funded by sales tax. In the past few years sales tax has grown but not at the same rate as income tax leaving a disparity that could put stress on public services provided by the state. Legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that tax reform is needed in order to keep up with the population growth, and a changing economy.
A legislative taskforce is holding a statewide tour gathering public feedback. At the same time the Utah House Democratic Caucus is hosting similar open houses. The caucus says their open houses are filling geographic gaps helping citizens to provide feedback throughout the state. One of the gaps the caucus filled was for the Wasatch Back. That meeting took place on Tuesday evening at the Wasatch Senior Citizens Center.
Brian King, Democratic Representative for Park City and Salt Lake City, presented the information and potential solutions to the public for feedback. King explained pros and cons for a variety of solutions among those included taxing more services; as Utah’s economy is becoming less goods based and more services based. For example, people are buying fewer physical items, such as lawnmowers or DVD’s that are taxed and are instead paying for more services such as lawncare or streaming subscriptions which are often untaxed. King also brought up other options included raising current tax rates, implementing a tourism tax, a carbon tax, a state lottery and removing tax exemptions some businesses currently citizens benefit from.
After the presentation those in attendance were able to discuss their ideas and concerns with representative King, other Democratic representatives and the author of last year’s attempted tax reform bill Republican representative Tim Quinn. Quinn represents Wasatch County and parts of Summit County.
Attendees also provided feedback and notes on some of those ideas through posters on the walls.
Heber resident Laurie Reed said she was in favor of removing tax exemptions provided to airline companies who don’t pay a tax on fuel bought in the state.
“That was my favorite was airline gas tax,” Reed said. “I think they should raise the tourism and I don't think that they should be taxing Veteran benefits.”
Interlocken resident Bill Goodhall said he believed that taxes should be progressive and that raising the tax rates isn’t a bad idea if done the right way.
“We should have a social conscience about what we do,” Goodhall continued. “So, for example taking away some of the exemptions for extraction for fuel use or increasing as a carbon tax. To help people move away from fossil fuels to renewables. To help people find other opportunities for employment is something that I think our state should be doing. I could go on and on but those are the main ones for me.”
Midway resident Aimee Armer also said that she supports taxes that are progressive.
“I don’t people who are struggling to survive in the world, working two or three jobs should be paying a higher percentage of their income for taxes,” Armer explained. “Versus progressive, where you have people who those taxes, the amount that they’re paying, is much smaller percentage of their income. They have the means to pay.”
You can provide feedback to the legislative taskforce on their website, their final open house will be Tuesday July 30th in Lehi Utah.