ST. GEORGE – Our Schools Now, a group seeking voter support to raise state taxes for public education, announced Monday that it has amended the ballot initiative to ask for a 0.45 percent increase instead of the 0.5 percent increase previously called for.
Officially titled the Teacher and Student Success Act, language in the initiative had called for increases in state sales tax of 4.7 to 5.2 percent and increase in state income tax from 5 to 5.5 percent. The retooled initiative takes sales and income tax to 5.15 and 5.45 percent respectively.
Though Our Our Schools Now originally estimated the tax increase would produce $700 million, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget estimated the initiative to cost $865 million over the three years the tax increase would be implemented if passed.
The tax increase, according to a news release from Our Schools Now, is projected to generate the desired $700 million by fiscal year 2020. This is anticipated to produce around $1,000 per student in the public school system.
The cost to the Utah’s average median household income is anticipated to be less than $35 a month, according to Our Schools Now.
According to the U.S. Census, the state’s average median household is $60,727.
“It’s time to increase our investment in Utah classrooms so that we can improve student achievement in Utah,” said Gail Miller, co-chair of Our Schools Now. “We are more confident than ever Our Schools Now will be successful in next year’s election.”
The amending of the tax increase comes after two rounds of public hearings held by Our Schools Now during July. State law requires ballot initiative efforts to hold seven public hearings across the state.
The group ended up holding a second round of public hearings due to a “technical error” related to not having the right language on the public notices for the hearings the first time around, Deseret News reported mid-July.
Provided the initiative gets on the 2018 ballot and subsequently passes, the tax increases would take full effect in 2019 rather then over multiple years as the original language laid out.
“Immediate implementation simplifies the initiative and provides investment more quickly to where it is needed most – our neighborhood schools,” the Our School Now news release reads.
The initiative needs over 113,000 signatures from across at least 26 of Utah’s 29 counties by April 2018 to qualify for a spot on the 2018 ballot.
Signature gathering efforts are set to start sometime in August.
“Utahns are ready to increase their investment in students and teachers and Our Schools Now gives them an opportunity to do so,” said Austin Cox, campaign manager for Our Schools Now.
A Dan Jones & Associates poll published by The Salt Lake Tribune Sunday showed a majority of polled voters favored the Our Schools Now initiative.
The poll showed 57 percent of registered Utah voters are either “somewhat” or “strongly” supportive of the ballot initiative. Forty percent of those polled were “somewhat opposed” and “strongly opposed” to the proposed measure, with 3 percent undecided.
The margin for error is plus or minus 3.95 percentage points with 614 registered voters polled, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Over Twitter Monday, the Libertas Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank based in Lehi that opposes the initiative, called the amended version “a slightly less massive tax grab.”
The Our Schools Now effort is 1 of 3 ballot initiatives currently at large in the state. The other two are related to creating an independent redistricting commission and legalizing medicinal marijuana.
St. George News reporter Hollie Reina contributed to this article.
Ed. Note: This article has been updated to clarify the original estimated price of the ballot initiative as estimed by the
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