Frankly, that means we all can take a deep breath and exhale slowly. For the last two years, that has been hanging over the heads of lawmakers like a leaky roof no one seemed able to fix. No matter what they tried, the public threw a fit.
Instead, the president of the Senate has declared 2021 to be “the year of the tax cut,” which sounds like such a nice, happy thing.
The quick answer, of course, is Amendment G. When voters approved this in November, lawmakers were able to begin funding programs for children and people with disabilities from the income tax, and education was given a fund out of sales taxes to provide money for growth and inflation.
The education lobby loved it. Voters seemed to like it. Presto! No more need for tax reform. No more talk about having to make kids charge sales tax for mowing your lawn.
But really, was it that easy?
Two years ago we were given a steady stream of arguments about the need to broaden the sales tax to include services because people weren’t buying big things any more, they were hiring people to do things instead. Remember that? Supposedly, people weren’t buying lawn mowers any more, they were hiring people to cut their grass.
Not only that, we were using tax preparers, getting haircuts and hiring people to clean our rain gutters, all tax free. This was unfair! If we taxed those things, politicians said, we could bring in enough money to reduce the overall tax rate.
When that failed — crushed under a heap of outraged accountants and travel agents — they tried an elaborate scheme of sales tax hikes, including on groceries and gasoline. That led to a repeal effort that quickly gathered enough signatures for a public vote. This time last year, lawmakers couldn’t convene fast enough to undo everything they had done.
Now, legislative leaders say Amendment G was enough. No need to do any more.
Sure, it seems like a step in the direction of rebalancing funds. Maybe what politicians really mean is that it’s enough for now, and everyone seems happy, so let’s move on to something else.
Limiting the governor: If there is any unpleasantness ahead for the 2021 session, it has to do with state lawmakers wanting to curtail some of the governor’s powers to declare emergencies in the case of, say, a pandemic.
Leaders in both chambers talked about this on opening day. Senate President Stuart Adams said the Legislature’s efforts last year to limit the governor and push for greater personal responsibility led to Utah having the lowest death rate from COVID-19 in the nation.
The website worldometers.info actually lists Utah with the sixth lowest per capita death rate. However, it has the third highest rate of cases per capita. The state’s young population and healthy lifestyles may account for fewer deaths. But, as many can attest, surviving the virus can come with many long-lasting, debilitating after-effects.
Other states: Utah isn’t the only state grappling with gubernatorial powers. Most of these — Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, and North Carolina, involve legislatures and governors of opposite parties. Idaho, like Utah, has a Republican Legislature that is trying to limit a Republican governor’s powers.
With any luck, this will all be a moot point because, like last time, the world won’t experience another pandemic for 100 years.