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State Representative: Revamped Tax Increase Initiative Would Hurt Utah Families, Economy

Katherine Taylor

Utah business and education leaders launched a new ballot initiative for the 2018 mid-term elections on Tuesday.

Revamping their effort following the 2017 General Session, Our Schools Now seeks to increase taxes to fund public education.

"Student's deserve exceptional teachers, equitable opportunities, and the resources necessary to ensure success," said Heidi Matthews, president of the Utah Education Association, who spoke at the announcement. She and other supporters -- including Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson -- are proposing tax increases to fund Utah public education.

“Our Schools Now is an essential first step toward assuring a permanent, long-term funding solution for education in Utah," she said. "Local school boards, districts, and communities are recognizing that investing [in] those who stand at the front of our classrooms is essential for the success of their students, and they are willing to pay for it."

If the proposal receives enough signatures to make the ballot and is then passed by voters, it would raise Utah's sales tax by 0.5 percent. The state income tax would also rise by 0.5 percent over 4 years, with both raises resulting in $700 million for education each year.

Rep. McCay, who's serving on the Education Interim Committee, worries that the tax could negatively impact struggling families and hurt the state’s economy.

"We’ve got an economy that is growing quickly and one of the ways you can limit growth is to increase a tax -- creates disincentives for performance, for investment in the state to increase jobs," he said.

Citing research done by the state Legislature, McCay claims that the money raised by Our Schools Now would do little to improve national test scores among students.

"If we were to try and raise our NAEP scores 1 percent, we'd have to increase a tax -- or increase revenue -- by $900 million," McCay said.