State Senator Chris Wilson will join his Utah Senate colleagues on Tuesday when the 2022 general session of the 64th Legislature convenes in Salt Lake City.
LOGAN — Utahns wanting a preview of the upcoming legislative session need look no further than a pre-session poll posted online Jan. 13 by State Sen. Chris Wilson (R-District 25 ).
The 2022 General Session of the 64and The Utah legislature is scheduled for Jan. 18-March 4. During this 45-day period, lawmakers will debate hundreds of proposals for new laws.
Wilson said Friday that his survey lists topics considered priorities by lawmakers and seeks to solicit his constituents’ opinions on the legislative options Wilson and his colleagues are considering.
The survey begins by asking respondents to select what they consider to be the top three issues from a list of 10 options. These issues are air quality, business concerns, economic development, education, health care affordability, gun rights, mental health services, tax reform, transportation /infrastructure and water issues.
Survey respondents are also asked to identify their top budget priority from a list of options including public education, higher education, the so-called “rainy day fund” of the state, transport, water, social services and health care.
Lawmakers are already assuming that Utahns’ legislative priorities will include cutting state taxes.
“Last year, we successfully weathered the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic and provided nearly $100 million in tax relief to Utahans,” Wilson said. “Over the next few weeks, we will be considering an additional tax reduction. We have already set aside $160 million to reduce taxes in Utah in the 2022 general session.”
This set aside was made possible because legislative analysts predict the state will have $930 million in new permanent funds and more than $1 billion in one-time funds to spend this year.
Governor Spencer Cox has suggested the $160 million surplus be used to provide a refundable grocery tax credit. But GOP legislative leaders have signaled they prefer to cut the state income tax rate.
Three different bills are already pending in the Legislature to reduce the state income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.9, 4.75 or 4.6%.
The most modest of these cuts, at 4.9%, is estimated to cost the state about $78.5 million a year in reduced tax revenue.
If the full $160 million set aside were allocated to an income tax reduction, it would reduce the tax rate to 4.85%.
House Bill 105, proposed by Rep. Travis Seegmiller, would cut the tax rate to 4.75% and cost the state more than $300 million.
Alternative options for tax relief listed in Wilson’s online survey include eliminating or reducing taxes on Social Security income; taxes on military retirement benefits; and sales taxes on food purchases. Other possibilities include increasing tax exemptions for veterans and active duty military or reducing the property tax burden for seniors.
Wilson’s survey also touches on the concept of “backpack” funding for public schools.
“Utah has a strong reputation for providing parents and students with educational options and freedoms,” Wilson points out.
“During the height of the pandemic, we saw school learning services vary from district to district. Some Utahans think we should increase parental choice by creating an option for parents to change schools while allowing education funding (provided by the state) to follow the student.
Wilson’s survey also solicits public opinion on the issue of transparent public school curricula.
“Some believe that school curriculum and educational materials need more transparency and accountability in Utah,” he explains. “Others believe that teachers should be free to adapt the curriculum and materials to the needs of students.”
On this topic, survey respondents can choose from options ranging from public review of all teaching materials to complete freedom for teachers to develop their own programs. Other options include streamlining parents’ ability to identify teaching materials they deem inappropriate and establishing consequences for teachers who use inappropriate materials.
The burning issue of housing affordability is also included in Wilson’s survey.
“Utah is the fastest growing state in the country,” said the senator. “We are currently second in the country for house price increases year over year.
“With Utah’s changing demographics, strong economy, and diverse labor market, housing cost increases have outpaced inflation four to five times over the past year.”
Possible options to address this issue suggested by Wilson’s survey include more flexible land use, increased density of housing along transit routes, and additional state rental assistance.
Other topics covered by Wilson’s inquiry that will no doubt be discussed in the upcoming legislative session include the state’s death penalty, transportation/infrastructure issues, criminal justice reform, water policy, air quality, election security, data privacy, state flag modernization and 2n/a Editing Rights.
Logan businessman Chris Wilson was elected to the Utah Senate in 2020, replacing Senator Lyle Hillyard for the long term. His Legislative assignments include serving on Senate committees responsible for Health and Human Services, Political Subdivisions, and Revenue and Taxation as well as Higher Education and Infrastructure Appropriations subcommittees. /general government.
Wilson’s pre-session survey can be accessed at https://mailchi.mp/8ae235923eb1/pre-session-survey?e=e111348b0d