An Ogden legislator leads the push to eliminate Utah's food tax
Utah is one of only a handful of states that taxes food, but one state legislator says taxing groceries should become a thing of the past.
The state currently charges a 1.75% tax on food, while some counties and cities across Utah can add to that, up to a total of 3%. But state Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, said she thinks the state needs to find other sources of revenue. She said the food tax is especially onerous for low-income families and retirees on fixed incomes.
"For people who are living paycheck to paycheck, the food demands don't change," she said, "and people sometimes have to choose between a roof over their head and finding food from whatever sources they can."
About one in 10 Utah households is considered food insecure, without consistent access to enough nutritious food. Lesser said she plans to introduce legislation in January to roll back the food tax. Proponents of the tax say it's a tool to reduce the state's income tax.
USDA research has shown that low-income families spend 36% of their income on food, while higher-income families spend as little as 8%. Lesser said that with food prices on the rise, working families need all the help they can get.
"People, regardless of inflation, still need food," she said, "and I think that as a state, we need to do everything we possibly can to lessen the risk of food insecurity."
Lesser was part of a bipartisan coalition in 2019 that blocked a plan to raise food taxes to almost 5%. She said polls show 67% of Utahns oppose the food tax, and she sees overwhelming support to end it.
"So this really, in my mind, does cross a number of political lines, and it's a consensus item - that people in Utah appreciate that taxing a basic necessity is not a good path forward."