Tax reform falls short this session, but conversation continues

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Time ran out on a massive tax reform bill during the legislative session, but the conversation is moving forward.

“Broaden the base and lower the rate.” That has been the rallying cry for tax reform in our state.

Lawmakers say something has to be done.

“We pay for all of our education expenses in the state with income tax and the constitution doesn’t allow us to spend that money any other way. The problem is we pay for everything else in the state with the sales tax, and that sales tax continues to dwindle and is growing at half the rate of the economy,” said Speaker Brad Wilson, (R) Kaysville.

House Bill 441 came out in the final weeks of the session.

It would have lowered the income and sales tax rates, but added taxes to most services.

It was met with strong opposition from businesses across the spectrum. The bill was pulled, but the debate continues.

“One thing we are somewhat agreed on is it may take multiple different avenues or multiple different sources to be able to correct the problem,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, (R) Layton.

That could include property taxes, a constitutional amendment on the income tax and reinstating the sales tax on food.

“If you do it right, you are able to actually have those people who make a lot of money who get the same benefit of sales tax off of food contribute to those that don’t,” said Adams.

That’s what Alliance for a Better Utah will be watching for. They say education and low-income families need to be protected.

“Business friendly is good, people friendly is better. And so, we can not be giving every single business a way out and then bolster that, again on the shoulders of low-income Utahns,” said Katie Matheson.

State lawmakers insist all Utahns will gain.

“We actually have set aside money for a tax cut later this year, but we’ve got to get this structural problem fixed so we can, in fact, get to that tax cut,” said Wilson.

The legislature created a tax reform task force to look into ways to address the system.

The committee is expected to gather input from across the state ahead of a special session.

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