POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Utah lawmakers preparing for the start of the 2023 legislative session

Jan 16, 2023, 9:47 PM | Updated: 10:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers will return Tuesday morning to Capitol Hill to start the 2023 legislative session.

There’s a lot of anticipation and optimism heading into the 45-day session, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle look at what to do with Utah’s large budget surplus.

“2023, I don’t think it’s any surprise, will be with the year of the tax cut again, again, and again,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton.

Adams said this will be the third year of tax cuts.

“Every tax is going to be on the table,” he said. “We’re going to talk about income tax, tax on social security. We’ll talk about property tax.”

With a $3.3 billion surplus, Gov. Spencer Cox wants to give some of it back to the people of Utah battling inflation.

“We have proposed some one-time tax cuts and rebates. Sending checks back to Utahns — which would help them not just with the rising cost of property values, but food, transportation, all of the increases that they’ve seen over the past year,” he said.

Utah housing, water, transit and more: What’s in Cox’s record $28.4B budget proposal?

Newly-elected House Minority Leader Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is hoping those tax cuts are targeted to those most in need.

“We would love to see no tax at all on social security. We would love to see the sales tax on food go away,” Romero said.

Tax cuts can be accomplished, leaders say, while also spending a record amount on education.

“I think we’ll fund teacher salaries directly, which is not very usual that we do,” Adams said.

Including Cox’s proposal of giving every teacher a $6,000 pay raise.

“My expectation is that school districts will give them their normal raises and this will be on top of that,” he said.

Romero wants to go even further.

“I’d also like to see how we could find full-day kindergarten and make our classroom size smaller.”

Other topics up for debate: abortion, transgender surgeries for minors, mental health, domestic violence prevention, and managing Utah’s booming population.

“We need to make sure that, as we’re growing, that the infrastructure keeps up with it,” Cox said. “You can maintain a high quality of life with more people, but you have to be intentional about it.”

Utah lawmakers call for ‘culture shift,’ budget increase for state’s child welfare system

All sides agree — water conservation is also a big priority so that we can get more water to the Great Salt Lake.

“Of course, top of mind for all Utahns is water supply, and in particular, the Great Salt Lake,” Romero said.

“We’ve got to find a way to solve our water problems, but I’m optimistic,” Adams said.

The governor and lawmakers encourage Utahns to get involved, saying you can make a difference by voicing your opinions about proposed bills.

The session will end on March 3.

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Utah lawmakers preparing for the start of the 2023 legislative session