ST. GEORGE – Our Schools Now will hold a public meeting to receive input on its ballot initiative at Legacy Elementary in St. George next week. The initiative seeks to raise the state sales and income tax in order to increase funding for public education.
Last month, the Our Schools Now group formally launched its ballot initiative campaign and submitted the paperwork to the Lt. Governor’s Office for review and fiscal impact examination. Part of that process involves taking public input on the proposal.
“The people of Utah have the opportunity to decide if we should make this investment in their children and in our future,” Scott Anderson, President and CEO of Zions Bank and co-chair of Our Schools Now said in a statement Wednesday. “These hearings will continue the conversation on how to best support teachers, improve achievement, and ensure students are better prepared with skills to succeed in today’s word.”
Officially named “The Teacher and Student Success Act,” the initiative calls for a half-percent increase in the state income and sales tax rate.
According to Our Schools Now, adjusting the personal income tax rate from 5 to 5.50 percent will generate $450 million annually, while increasing the sales tax rate from 4.7 to 5.2 will yield $250 million annually.
Overall, the measure aims to create an extra $750 million annually for education funding, translating into around $1,000 more per student.
According to the Utah Foundation, Utah’s K-12 education funding has fallen from seventh to 37th in the nation over the past 20 years, a nearly $1.2 billion reduction in money available to schools.
Education funding in Utah has declined since 1996, when Utah began spending income tax on higher education. Previously, income tax was only spent on K-12.
In 2017, $800 million in state income tax revenue will be spent on higher education, according to a Utah Foundation report.
Names backing the initiative include: Wilford Clyde, chair of the Salt Lake Chamber; and Allison Riddle, 2014 Utah Teacher of the Year. Also joining as initiative sponsors were Gail Miller, owner of Larry H. Miller Group of Companies; Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, and Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake.
The Our Schools Now group will begin collecting signatures in August, and must gather 113,143 signatures in 26 out of 29 Senate Districts to place the initiative on the 2018 ballot.
While the group has said Utah voters will support a tax increase to provide additional funding to education, there is opposition to the initiative.
“This income and sales tax hike will hit lower- and middle-class Utahns the hardest at a time when their tax burden has increased substantially in recent years, such as for gas, property, and purchases,” Michael Melendez, director of policy at the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute, said in a statement following the official launch of the initiative’s campaign in June.
The public input meeting in St. George will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m., at Legacy Elementary, 280 E. 100 South in St. George.
Visit the Our Schools Now website for additional meeting locations across the state.
For those that are not able to attend and wish to provide comments, they can be submitted through the Our Schools Now website.
Former St. George News reporter Julie Applegate contributed to this article.
- What: Our Schools Now ballot initiative public input meeting.
- When: 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 11
- Where: Legacy Elementary, 280 E. 100 South, St. George
- PDF: The Teacher and Student Success Act
- The initiative’s fiscal note from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget
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