Utah Legislature backtracks on tax reform

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Gov. Herbert signed a repeal Tuesday night to a controversial tax reform nearly six weeks after it was passed unanimously in the Utah Senate and with a nearly unanimous vote in the state House of Representatives.

During a special legislative session in December, the tax reform was proposed and passed as SB2001. The bill would raise costs on groceries while decreasing the income tax. Along with groceries, the tax would also create new taxes on a variety of new services such as newspapers subscriptions, dating services, Uber rides, and others.

Opponents of the tax reform package consisted of at least 152,000 Utahns who signed referendum petitions, hoping to repeal the package. Opponents expressed concern about whether the bill put financial pressure on the lower class, specifically in regard to the grocery tax. Utahns requested that the referendum be voted on in the November election, but the Legislature repealed it before it reached that level. Representatives expressed concern about whether it should be repealed or continue to the referendum in November.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, voted in favor of the repeal. “The right thing is to go in and repeal this now so people are not getting one tax bill and that is being returned. This is the right thing to do,” Harper said.

Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, sponsored HB185. After nearly nine months of discussion, a statewide tour, 18 public meetings, and 60-plus hours of public comment, the tax restructuring bill was passed in a special session. “There were quite a lot of good things in that bill, but many people in the state of Utah do not agree with this tax restructuring. HB185 looks to repeal that,” Gibson said.

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake, voted in favor of repeal. “I do not regret my participation on the task force. I learned a lot. I learned that Utahns care. Even in some of the areas you wouldn’t think you would get 100 or 200 people to come out, they came,” Briscoe said.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, expressed his respect for the state of Utah before the state senate on Tuesday. “It was a great experience to meet people who cared very deeply about the state,” Hillyard said. 

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 70-1, repealing the second largest tax cut in the history of the state of Utah.

The Senate Minority Democratic Caucus released a statement that said the process was an excellent example of what can be achieved when working to accomplish what the people of the State of Utah want. Signing petitions and raising public awareness about legislative concerns has shown to be an effective way to have public opinion heard, especially with matters affecting basic necessities and everyday life.

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