Utah House speaker proposes ballot question to address education funding and food tax | News, Sports, Jobs

TIM VANDENACK, Standard Examiner

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, right, addresses a legislative town hall at Layton City Hall on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Listening in, from left, are Senator Jerry Stevenson, Representative Stewart Barlow and Representative Stephen Handy.

Utahns could see a question about whether to increase state budget flexibility — and whether to remove the state food sales tax — on the November ballot.

The Utah State Board of Education held a virtual meeting on Tuesday to hear a presentation titled “Education and the General Fund: Budget Flexibility Available” from Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Ben Leishman , Chief Financial Officer of the Office of the Legislative Tax Analyst.

Wilson said he thinks the rigidity of the current budget does not allow policymakers to allocate funds to the issues they consider most pressing. Currently, the Utah State Constitution stipulates that corporate and personal income taxes only fund higher and public education, as well as certain social services. The rest of Utah’s tax revenue goes towards everything else in the state budget.

Additionally, Constitutional Amendment G, which was approved in 2020, ensures that growth and inflation are automatically added to the base education budget, but no other area of ​​funding has the same guarantee, which which means they do not receive additional funds to account for inflation.

With many members of the general public and the legislature calling for the removal of the state sales tax on food, Wilson fears that funds allocated to Utah’s general fund will not be enough to provide general government services.

“We have, as you all know, the fastest growing state in the country with a strong economy and thriving citizens, but it’s not a state that has no budget limits,” said Wilson. “As our state grows…one of the challenges we have is that the general fund, our sales tax, is not growing at the same rate as income tax. We don’t really have a revenue problem in the state of Utah, but we do have a budget problem.

Wilson’s proposal is to remove artificial barriers in state budget appropriations and remove the sales tax on food, while continuing to prioritize funding for education with additional constitutional safeguards. As it is an election year, Wilson said he hopes to put his proposal on the ballot during this cycle; if not, he thinks it might be too late.

“If we do nothing this year, three years from now when you can really see the impact of the next election cycle, it may be almost too late to deal with some of the budget constraints that we have in the state,” Wilson said.


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