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Taxpayers Association Says Referendum Has Unintended Consequences

Utah Capitol Building at dusk

During a special session earlier this month, the Utah Legislature passed a tax reform bill that cut state revenue by $160 million dollars. 

The legislation includes multiple tax benefits, such as lowering the income tax rate, increasing dependent exemptions, and providing lower-income families and individuals with a grocery tax credit.

However, the bill also increases the sales tax on unprepared food and removes the sales tax exemption from gasoline-- changes some people worry will hurt lower-income Utahns. In response to these concerns, many people are supporting a referendum to halt the bill’s implementation. 

Rusty Cannon, the vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association, said he is aware of these concerns but urges people to consider the bill as a whole before signing the referendum. 

“Yes, grocery purchases, gas purchases are ongoing and this is a once per year grocery tax refund,” Cannon said. “Most of that is offset by the lower income tax, as well as the raised dependent exemption.”

According to Cannon, there is also a provision in the bill that would eliminate income taxes on social security income for middle to low-income Utahns, which is another reason he cautions people against signing the referendum. 

“Why would somebody sign a referendum to repeal a bill that gives senior citizens on a low-income basis that big of a tax cut?” Cannon said.

Judy Weeks Rohner is one of the referendum’s sponsors and said while there are some elements of the bill that could benefit Utahns, she believes the increased taxes on food and gas will offset them. 

“All we're asking is to give people a choice,” Weeks Rohner said. “By signing this referendum, it puts this issue to the people on the ballot in November. It stops the bill and it allows people to have a voice.”

Weeks Rohner said those who want to sign the referendum can sign it anywhere in the state and do not have to sign it in the county where they reside.