The Utah Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force completed its eight-part public listening tour around the state Tuesday night in Utah County. From Brigham City to St. George, hundreds of Utahns voiced their opinions over the last five weeks on potential tax reform in the state.
Republican Senator Lincoln Fillmore, who represents District 10 in southwest Salt Lake, summarized what was accomplished at these town halls.
“As we finish this feedback-gathering phase,” he said, “we feel like we are better informed about what those we represent expect us to do in terms of balancing the state’s budget and creating this sort of environment and economy where both businesses and families can thrive.”
The protection of education funding was a primary concern at the town halls. Fillmore noted that education is always a priority in public opinion polls, so it is not surprising the public spoke out to protect it, which the task force largely agrees. A proposed service tax has also been met with general opposition, a message the task force, he believes, clearly heard.
The task force will now work with nonpartisan legislative staff, experts and public advocacy groups in order to weigh the pros and cons of proposed solutions and predict the potential consequences. Fillmore said balance will be important moving forward.
“We want to make sure that we are able to move things forward and balance that out with the fact that we don’t want to do anything so drastic that it’s going to cause any disruption to Utah’s currently very successful economy and quality of life,” he said.
Doing nothing, he stated, is also an option, though it is important to recognize that straining problems such as air quality, housing, transportation, public safety and education could likely grow worse. He said meeting these challenges requires the public to continue its participation.
“The legislature will make better decisions when those we represent are more involved in the process.”