LOGAN – State senate candidate Chris Wilson has joined a growing list of education stakeholders and public interest groups who are supporting the Amendment G proposal on the November general election ballot.
“I’ve studied the proposed change to the Utah constitution and discussed it with legislative leaders,” Chris Wilson says. “After giving it a lot of thought, I’m now in favor of Amendment G.”
While opponents of the ballot measure have been making headlines recently, Wilson has joined Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in endorsing the plan, along with Senate President Stuart Adams (R-Layton) and Speaker of the Utah House Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville).
“I’m not certain that people opposing Amendment G fully understand its components,” says the Senate District 25 candidate who founded his recent political reputation on opposition to what he considered an ill-advised tax reform package passed by the Legislature during its 2019 general session.
Legislative analysts explain that voter approval of Amendment G would trigger two state measures drafted during the 2020 general session of the Legislature.
The first is Senate Joint Resolution 9, which would change the Utah Constitution to allow the Legislature to use income tax revenues to fund critical programs for children and persons with disabilities.
The second measure, which has gone largely unnoticed by critics, is House Bill 357. That law would stabilize funding for public education by moving the state’s Minimum School Program funding to a constitutionally protected account for K-12 education.
Traditionally, income tax revenues have been strictly allocated to public education and higher education in Utah. But the state’s fiscal experts emphasize that income tax revenues are historically unstable, especially during period of economic downturn like the current coronavirus pandemic. They also note that, under current state law, there is no requirement to factor student enrollment growth or inflation into education funding.
Under House Bill 357, however, education funding will be automatically adjusted based on enrollment growth and inflation. The legislation also establishes a reserve account to stabilize public education funding during economic downturns. In terms of dollars and cents, that means that $75 million will be placed in the education stabilization account and approximately $3.6 billion of K-12 education funding will be moved into the constitutionally protected Uniform School Fund.
During a candidate debate in September, Cox explained that the details of House Bill 357 had been thoroughly negotiated with education stakeholders during the 2020 general session of the Legislature.
As a result of those discussions, the Amendment G ballot measure is now supported by the State Board of Education, the Utah Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Utah Parent Teachers Association, the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, the Utah Taxpayers Association, the Utah Public Employees Association, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Utah Retail Merchants Association, the Utah Business Coalition, the Utah Food Industry Association and the Utah Association of Realtors.
Given that House Bill 357 was negotiated prior to the pandemic outbreak in mid-March, there was some concern that promises made during the general session would not survive the Legislature’s subsequent budget-balancing special sessions.
“But, during that special session,” the lieutenant governor explained, “we were able to maintain all of our planned funding for education and actually increase funding by 2 percent for the year to come.
“Doing that during this pandemic is remarkable … It’s why I’m supporting Amendment G.”
According to recent polling by UtahPolicy.com for KUTV 2News, about 46 percent of Utah voters favor Amendment G, while 35 percent oppose the measure and 19 percent are still undecided.