During his October news conference, Gov. Herbert focused highly on new tax reform legislation and modernization initiatives.
“I do support, certainly, of having a more equitable tax system," he said. "I think the intent should be, if we’re going to have this tax reform, included in that effort, in fact, should be a tax cut for people of Utah. And that’s what I think the legislature is trying to do.”
The proposed reform, which includes cutting income tax and raising taxes on groceries and gas, has raised concerns about how much those in poverty would be affected. Another concern is the effect on the state’s education if the portion of income tax earmarked for education was eliminated.
“I would support it if they find a buy-in from the educational stakeholders, and they can show that there’s going to be a sustainable revenue stream for education," Herbert said. "That’s the worry. If we take away the income tax earmark, that we’re somehow going to be short changed when comes to the portion of revenue that needs to go into education.”
This is especially important as Gov. Herbert pointed out that education and trade school training are crucial for students to be guaranteed success later on.
“Even during the worst economic times we’ve had in Utah, during the Great Recession, those that had education and degrees, the unemployment rate never exceeded 5% in the nation," he said. "Those, in fact, who had only a high school diploma was 10%, and those who had less than a high school diploma was at 15.”
The governor also advocated for a tax system that would ensure people below the poverty line would not have to pay higher grocery tax in order to lessen the effects on those who already struggle to pay for food.
"Rather than having a shotgunned approach on taxing food, I think legislature is proposing a more rifled approach," Herbert said. "Those who are making over $100,000 per year can probably can afford to pay the sales tax on food. In tax fairness, those who are at the lower end of the economic spectrum shouldn't have to pay the tax."
Herbert said he’s confident the state has adequate services to address homelessness for the coming months as temperatures drop, even if some facilities reach capacity.
"We don’t want anybody to be forced to stay on the street or sleep in a car," he said.