LOGAN – Utah Governor Gary Herbert said he appreciates the legislature’s commitment to finding a solution to tax reform and a “special session is still on the table if we can have some kind of consensus between the senate and house” before the end of the year.
Herbert’s comments came during his monthly news conference at the State Capitol on Thursday.
“I think they are trending in the right direction with a number of different issues and proposals out there,” he said.
After spending more than seven months meeting with legislators, community leaders and members of the public, a tax reform task force presented six proposals on Capitol Hill Tuesday night with the hopes to formulate a bill in the near future.
One proposal put forth by co-chairman Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, and House Majority Leader Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, would raise sales taxes on gas, food and some services while reducing income taxes.
The idea of taxing services and restoring the full 4.85% state sales tax on food prompted opposition from many attending the discussion.
Utahns Against Hunger’s Alex Cragun worries raising the food tax will hurt the average low-to middle income family in Utah. On KVNU’s For the People program on Wednesday, Cragun said his organization has been watching everything closely.
“We found that individuals that are purchasing groceries, particularly that are low income, a sales tax on food hurts them substantially. Low and middle income households could see an increase of a $172 to up to $252 in additional tax burden based on the sales tax on food,” explained Cragun.
“I’m discouraged that people are not reading the whole bill,” Hillyard stated. “People are reacting to some parts of it without understanding the whole mix.”
He continued, “We didn’t have time to really zero in on the services and exemptions. We hope to do that so that when we meet next time we’re going to have specifics outlined so that people can say I like the idea, but I don’t like this part of it and we can decide the language.”
Hillyard said part of his proposal would allow for exemptions as well as a food tax credit. Gov. Herbert supports the idea.
“Rather than have a shotgun approach on taxing food, I think the legislative proposal is a more rifled approach,” Herbert said, “I think with vouchers, with tax credits, with the different options we have in the tax code that can actually be arranged so that if we put the sales tax back on food those that are vulnerable don’t have to pay it.”
“We think we have a pretty good balance so that some people will pay more, some less,” Hillyard said. “Overall the net impact on the state revenue will remain neutral.”
At least two more task force meetings are scheduled, on Nov. 7 and 21.