Be bold: Utah lawmakers are hinting they want to consider “big, bold ideas” when it comes to tax reform. These, according to Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, might even include the “crazy idea” of drop-kicking the income tax entirely. That would put Utah on a par with neighboring Nevada and Wyoming.
That’s bold, all right. The million-dollar (or much more, actually) question, is whether you, the average Utahn, would vote to make this happen.
A little history: Just like the sales tax, the state income tax was born during the Great Depression, apparently under the theory that the best way to fix a struggling economy was to take more money out of the pockets of the people.
In the beginning, 75 percent of the relatively small income tax went toward public education, with schools receiving the bulk of their funding from the property tax, according to a 2010 briefing paper by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. But during WWII, schools began asking for more money, which created a crisis, of sorts, for the general fund.
A committee took a couple of years to study the problem, culminating in a constitutional amendment in 1946 to give 100 percent of the income tax to schools.
So what happens if lawmakers say it’s time to turn back the clock?
For most Utahns, income taxes always have gone hand-in-hand with schools. You can imagine what the rhetoric and campaign ads would be like with such a thing on the ballot. The Utah Education Association, and perhaps others, would argue that schools would be short-changed; that the income tax is growing with the economy and that it at least provides a guaranteed source of money.
The other side would argue that income taxes are bad for economic development and that, contrary to what politicians said nearly 90 years ago, they don’t help the economy.
You may hate the income tax, but if it went away, rest assured that property and sales taxes would have to increase to make up the difference.
So, given all this, would you vote yes?
Budgeting disaster? Utah senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney have a novel idea. They are sponsoring a bill that would require the federal government to fund disaster relief from within the budget. Add a line item estimating what this might be each year, then spend only within that budget. This, they believe, would require Washington to face difficult financial realities and stop simply borrowing money it doesn’t have.
Which is actually rather humorous.
Only in Washington would the idea of budgeting for disasters be considered controversial. Businesses build in contingencies for repairs or other predictable problems. Responsible adults budget for car repairs, doctor visits, etc.
Of course, given the enormous yearly budget deficit, even if Congress budgets for disasters, that would mean borrowing money.
What’s that in the sky? Utah soon may become a landing strip for astronauts using Boeing’s Starliner spaceship. That makes sense, given the vast stretches of empty land in this remote state. Still, it would be more fitting, and fun, if everyone involved would instead choose Nevada’s Area 51, where lore has it the government once captured aliens — and not the kind trying to get here from Mexico.
Water! Water! You know you live in the West when that simple explanation can have two meanings. Farmers in Utah have been complaining for years about drought. Now they are struggling to keep their heads above water. Crops aren’t growing as they should. Animals aren’t getting enough hay.
If history is any guide, however, Utahns won’t have to wait long for hot, dry weather to return, and for people to begin complaining that it’s nuts to sell fireworks in July.