Utah lawmakers racked up results – but not on tax reform during the 2019 Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers took on tough tasks during a legislative session that ended an hour earlier than expected Thursday night, and racked up results on big issues, including limiting Medicaid expansion and enshrining hate crime penalties.

By the start of the third week of the 45-day session, a scaled-back replacement for the full Medicaid expansion approved by voters last November had been signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert despite protests from faith leaders and others.

Under the direction of new leaders in the House and Senate, the Legislature’s Republican supermajority shifted its focus to tax reform, but the bill that surfaced late in the session ended up being scrapped in favor of a tax task force.

HB441 would have extended sales taxes to a wide variety of services while lowering both the sales and income tax rates, options that will be on the table for a possible special session this summer, along with restoring the full sales tax on food.

Republican legislative leaders also wanted a $75 million tax cut as part of the tax reform legislation and have set aside that amount for an as-yet unspecified cut in the $19 billion budget for the spending year that begins July 1.

But Thursday, the governor told the Deseret News that a $75 million tax cut isn’t enough.

“I think there is an opportunity to still have tax reform, better tax policy, which will provide the revenues necessary to run the core services of government and still have the best environment for business,” Herbert said.

“I think if we do all that, there still can be a healthy $150 million to $200 million tax cut to the public. I think that’s possible,” said the governor, who proposed a $200 million sales tax rate cut as part of the tax reform plan in his own budget.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said the size of the tax cut will depend on what a new plan to shore up lagging sales tax revenues looks like.

“If we get a really good tax reform, I think we can afford a larger tax cut. If we don’t, then I think we probably shouldn’t do a larger tax cut. It’s all relational,” Adams said.

For House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, not being able to deliver a tax cut this session was a disappointment. He said he would “definitely hope” Utahns will see a reduction in their taxes coming out of the task force efforts.

“I think we would like to do a meaningful tax cut and I’d love to do something more than $75 million,” Wilson said. “But $75 million is enough of a tax cut that it can have a really meaningful difference on a typical household.”

The failure to find a tax fix led to a budget impasse until the House speaker and the Senate president agreed to only temporary funding for $320 million of the $19 billion budget.

The purpose behind not promising future funding for budget items like expanding the disability services waiting list and substance abuse treatment for the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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