Utah House Speaker proposes ballot question to address education funding, food tax | News, Sports, Jobs


TIM VANDENAK, standard examiner

Utah Speaker Brad Wilson (right) addresses the Leyton City Hall on Monday, February 3, 2020. Senator Jerry Stevenson, MP Stuart Barlow and MP Stephen Handy are listening from left to right.

In November this year, Utah residents could see the question of whether to increase the flexibility of the state budget – and whether or not to remove the state tax on food sales.

The Utah Board of Education held a virtual meeting Tuesday to hear a presentation entitled “Education and the Common Fund: Affordable Budget Flexibility” from Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Ben Leishman, finance manager of the Office of Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

Wilson said he believes the inflexibility within the current budget does not allow politicians to allocate funds to issues they consider most pressing. Currently, the Utah Constitution provides that corporate and individual income taxes fund only higher and public education, as well as certain social services. The rest of Utah’s tax revenue goes to everything else in the state budget.

In addition, an amendment to Constitution G, which was approved in 2020, ensures that growth and inflation are automatically added to the basic education budget, but no other areas of funding have the same guarantee, meaning they do not receive additional funds for accounting inflation.

With many members of the general public and the legislature calling for the abolition of the state tax on food sales, Wilson is concerned that the funds allocated to the Utah General Fund will not be enough to provide general government services.

“We have, as you all know, the fastest growing state in a country with a strong economy and wealthy citizens, but this is not a state that does not have any budget constraints,” Wilson said. “As our state grows … one of the problems we have is that the common fund, our sales tax, is not growing at the same rate as the income tax. We don’t really have a revenue problem in Utah, but we do have a budget problem. “

Wilson’s proposal is to eliminate artificial barriers to state budget allocations and remove the tax on food sales, while continuing to give priority to funding education with additional constitutional guarantees. Since this is election year, Wilson has said he hopes to make his proposal on the ballot during this cycle; otherwise, he believes it may be too late.

“If we don’t do something this year, three years from now, when you can really see the impact of the next election cycle, it may actually be too late to deal with some of the budget constraints we have in the state,” Wilson said.



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