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Referendum To Repeal Utah Tax Code Changes Underway

Andrew Smith
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This week Governor Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill 2001, which enacted changes to Utah’s tax code. The bill, which was passed largely along party lines, failed to secure the two-thirds majority support it would need to be referendum proof.

The tax reform bill will cut income tax rates from 4.95% to 4.66%, while increasing sales tax from 1.75% to 4.85%. It is anticipated to reduce state income tax revenues by $630 million while increasing state sales tax revenues by $475 million. Although the bill represents a net tax cut, it has received bipartisan criticism, and a referendum against the legislation, is already under way.

“The reason why I’m spending part of my holiday working on this is we feel it’s really important that people be heard,” said Gina Cornia, the director of Utahns against Hunger.

Corina is assisting with the referendum against the tax reform bill, citing disproportionate effects on low-income Utahns. Although low-income families will be eligible for a tax rebate, Cornia argued it may be too little, too late.

“For families who right now have to choose between paying for groceries and paying the rent, even $20 to $30 a month, that’s going to make it difficult for them to meet all of their basic needs. We do need to fix our revenue stream. But low-income families don’t have the money to loan the state until they get a tax return,” Cornia said.

According to Fred Cox, the legislator associated with the referendum, almost 116,000 signatures must be collected by January 21 for it to make it onto the 2020 ballot. Because of the tight deadline, Cornia doesn’t think she’ll see much of a break for the holidays.

“It’s a herculean task, for sure. But, you know, I’m kind of optimistic,” Cornia said.