Utah Lawmakers Facing Tax Reform Backlash As Legislative Session Begins

Jan 27, 2020, 8:32 PM | Updated: 8:35 pm
Members of the Utah State Legislature open the 2020 General Session. (Jed Boal/KSL TV)...
FILE: Members of the Utah State Legislature at the 2020 General Session. (Jed Boal/KSL TV)
(Jed Boal/KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah State Legislature opened the 2020 session facing tax reform backlash from voters across the Beehive State.

Lawmakers are focused on repealing the tax reform law they passed in a special session in December while getting back to work on budgets, as they always do during the session.

But officials said it’s possible they won’t come up with a replacement tax reform bill this session.

“It is a setback,” said Senate President Stuart Adams. “But there are other options, and we will keep working.”

Adams said the public backlash on the tax reform bill passed in mid-December got their attention.

“We pretty much heard from the people,” Adams said. “We listened to them. We tried different fixes. We tried some last legislative session. We tried one during the special session. They haven’t worked.”

Utahns were especially upset about renewed taxation on food and community groups had gathered signatures to put the unpopular bill on the ballot for voters to decide. Many in Utah firmly stated that food should not be taxed because it is an unfair burden on the poor.

“Obviously, the citizens didn’t want that…to motivate that many signatures,” said Senate minority leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City. “I think we need to rethink this.”

HB185 was introduced to repeal the tax reform package on Monday. That bill would have reduced state income taxes and raised sales taxes on food and gas and other services.

The repeal bill will not have a hearing and officials said it should move through the process quickly. A replacement bill is not likely this session.

Adams believed they should wait on the major elements of tax reform until next year, when Utah will have a new governor.

“I think it would be really good to have that new governor’s input,” he said. “I think it would be a great idea to have that process take place after the new governor is there.”

“The public needs to realize, we have not spent all the money and we have been holding back,” said Senate majority leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.

Senate leadership said there’s no tax reform emergency and the Utah economy is in their favor.

“I just can’t imagine in my wildest dreams that Utah isn’t going to fix this,” Adams said. “We’ve got a great legislature. We’ve been known for taking on legislative problems, and we’ll get it right.”

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Utah Lawmakers Facing Tax Reform Backlash As Legislative Session Begins