Utah Lawmakers Say They Will Repeal Controversial Tax Reform Plan
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Gov. Gary Herbert and leaders of the Utah State Legislature said they will repeal the controversial tax plan that was enacted in a special session just last month as their first order of business when the 2020 legislative session begins next week.
The announcement came after organizers submitted what they believe are approximately 152,000 signatures to get a tax referendum on the November ballot. The number of signatures needed for such a referendum is somewhere in the neighborhood of 116,000.
Herbert, at his monthly news conference Thursday, said it appeared it was time to hit the restart button — and then pause before figuring out any kind of way forward on tax reform in the future.
“The need for tax modernization is not going to go away,” Herbert said. “We’re not where we need to be, so it is proper that we start over.”
When the new legislative session kicks into gear Monday, leaders said they will introduce legislation to repeal SB 2001. That measure would have restored the sales tax on food and would have added taxes to wholesale gas prices and some other services.
The governor said this move is not something where leaders “blinked.”
“We’re accommodating the will of the people,” Herbert said. “Blinking makes it sound like we’re in some big fight here. We’re all Utahns. We want good policy on everything, including tax policy.
“The fact that we have pushback means we’ve not done our job as far as convincing people this is the right thing to do or the right way to do it, or all of the above.”
Fred Cox, a former lawmaker and one of the organizers of the referendum movement, said “if [the legislature] want(s) to surrender, that’s up to them.” However, he still wanted the verification process to move forward.
“We’re not going to minimize the voice of the people and we’re not going to negotiate that away,” Cox said. “If the legislature does a full repeal and the governor signs the repeal bill, it would appear there would be one less item on the ballot this fall.”
Herbert said it’s not clear exactly how the legislature will proceed.