Lawmakers announce repeal of tax bill, rendering referendum efforts moot

Utah Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, date unspecified. | Photo by AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Gov. Gary R. Herbert, Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson announced Thursday that they are repealing the controversial tax legislation known as SB 2001.

According to a press release from the Utah Legislature, when the 2020 general legislative session opens Monday, legislative leaders will introduce a bill to repeal the changes made in a special session held in December.

“As elected officials, we are committed to crafting policy that addresses the challenges we face, enhances the quality of life for all Utahns and has the support of the public,” Herbert, Adams and Wilson said in a joint statement.

“The intention is that the bill will be ready for the governor’s signature before the completion of the first week of the session. Once the repeal is signed into law, the legislature will begin work under the reinstated tax code to prepare the fiscal year 2021 state budget. Repealing S.B. 2001 will enable the legislature to draft the budget without the uncertainty of a referendum potentially changing the tax code midway through the budget year.”

The repeal of the bill will render moot the recent efforts to have the issue put on the ballot, as there will no longer be a bill to vote on. The lawmakers said the following in regards to the referendum:

In recent weeks, it has become clear that many people have strong concerns regarding legislation passed in December to restructure and revise our tax code. They expressed their concerns by signing a petition to include a referendum on the ballot later this year. We applaud those who have engaged in the civic process and made their voices heard. We are not foes on a political battlefield, we are all Utahns committed to getting our tax policy right. That work is just beginning.

Over the past weeks, multiple referendum-signing events have been organized in Southern Utah.

With one of the main points of controversy surrounding the legislation being the proposed food tax increase, several Utah grocery stores opened their doors to signing events in January, and the Harmons grocery chain took it a step further, announcing their support of the referendum.

St. George resident and Utah State Board of Education member Michelle Boulter, one of the organizers behind signing events in St. George and Santa Clara, said the food tax increase would force those on fixed incomes or families just starting out to choose between necessities rather than choose to cut out luxuries.

“When we’re all tightening our belt in an economic downturn, the last thing you want to try to think about is ‘Do I want to buy milk or eggs?’” Boulter said. “That’s a really bad thing for Southern Utah families.”

The Utah PTA also came out in support of the referendum on Jan. 13.

“It is Utah PTA’s position that the tax reform legislation that was recently approved by Utah’s Legislature in a special session is a threat to the long-term funding of education in Utah,” the organization said in a statement. “It cuts Utah’s funding source for education and places an untenable burden on Utah’s most vulnerable populations, including families with children who are already going hungry without adequate means to purchase food.”

According to a report from Fox13Now, the referendum appeared to have gained enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Organizers claim to have received 152,000 signatures. The referendum was only required to collect more than 115,869 signatures.

In the statement from the Legislature, they said that crafting the right policy is “critical to our state’s long-term success.”

“We will take time to reset and address this issue in the future in a way that allows all Utahns to fully understand the challenge we face, engage in the debate over the best solutions and, ultimately, enact policy that best positions Utah for decades to come.

“We are elected to represent our constituents by understanding the issues we face as a state, debating proposed solutions and adopting the right policies. We are encouraged by the high level of interest in this issue and we hope those who signed their names to the petition—and all Utahns—will be engaged as we work together to craft the right policy.”

The 2020 Utah Legislature begins Monday and runs through March 12.

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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