SALT LAKE CITY — Volunteers were working overtime across the state to gather enough signatures by Tuesday’s deadline to put the tax reform bill on the ballot.
Organizers of the referendum estimated 112,000 people had signed the referendum by Monday morning. They need nearly 116,000 signatures by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline to see the referendum on November’s ballot.
“We don’t really have to sell people to sign. They’ve investigated on their own. They seek us out,” said Marci Campbell, one of many volunteers gathering signatures at Harmon’s stores Monday night. “(We’re) so optimistic. We hate to lose by one. So, come sign if you’re interested.”
Lawmakers passed the tax reform bill in a special legislative session on Dec. 12. Within a matter of days, Gov. Gary Herbert had signed the bill and opponents had filed for a referendum.
“They’re mostly concerned about the people that will really struggle and suffer, in terms of how they’ll be able to feed their families,” Campbell said, referencing the bill’s increase on food sales tax. “Once you read more about it and learn more about it then you are really worried about the future of the state of Utah.”
We spoke to both sides of the debate today...volunteers gathering signatures and @SutherlandInst which has taken a more public position against the #referendum in the last few days. @KSL5TV at 10 pic.twitter.com/8W89yort0d— Matt Rascon (@MattRasconNews) January 21, 2020
“We’re worried about the same people the initiative people are worried about. Were worried about low-income Utah families,” said Rick Larsen, president of the Sutherland Institute, a nonpartisan, conservative think tank that has been involved in the research on the tax reform bill. “Lost somewhere in that short message of an increase on grocery tax, is the fact that it is mathematically an overall tax cut. We’re of the opinion that there are some issues that are a little too complex for the initiative process and this is one of them.”
Larsen pointed to the decrease in the state income tax rate and tax credits, pre-bates and rebates the bill offers to offset the sales tax for low-income families.
“We do acknowledge there’s a tax increase on groceries. That’s a very inflammatory issue for a lot of people and we understand why,” Larsen said. “But we also recognize there are some very innovative if not progressive solutions that take care of families and lower-income Utahns.”