Tax breaks this session? House speaker won't commit

Tax breaks this session? House speaker won't commit

(Scott G Winterton, KSL)



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SALT LAKE CITY — House Speaker Brad Wilson wouldn’t commit Wednesday to backing a new bill giving Utah families the same type of break on their state income taxes they would have gotten under the now-repealed tax reform package.

“I personally think that’s something we need to continue to look at,” Wilson said, but declined to say when that would happen. Legislative leaders have made it clear they want to wait until the 2021 Legislature to take another try at tax reform.

“We are committed to, at least I’m personally committed to a tax cut, but we also don’t want to jeopardize our ability in the future to deal with the structural imbalance, so we’re still looking at ways to do both. And whether or not that happens this session, time will tell,” the speaker said.

At the start of the 2020 Legislature last week, lawmakers repealed the tax reform package that dealt with the state’s lagging growth in sales tax revenues by raising sales taxes on food, gas and some services while lowering income tax rates and giving breaks to families as well as low-income and elderly Utahns.

The repeal came as a citizens referendum appeared headed for the November ballot, giving voters the ability to retain or repeal the tax reform plan.

The sponsor of HB260, Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, told KSL last week when the bill was still being drafted that he couldn’t imagine it wouldn’t be passed this session despite the admonition by legislative leadership about waiting.

“I don’t know how we say we’re going to keep Utahns’ money until we figure out a tax policy that’s palatable to both chambers and to the public. I don’t know how we do it,” said Quinn, who served on the Legislature’s tax reform task force that advanced the package that amounted to a $160 million tax cut.


I don’t know how we say we’re going to keep Utahns’ money until we figure out a tax policy that’s palatable to both chambers and to the public.

–Tim Quinn, R-Heber City


Lawmakers are interested in other tax cuts, too, Wilson said, adding he’s hearing the most about an income tax break for Social Security benefits for low- and moderate-income Utahns that was also part of the tax reform package. There is also a push this session to offer a tax break on military pensions.

Wilson said he believed increasing the dependent exemption, as Quinn’s bill would do to offset what amounted to a tax increase for many families because of federal tax changes, and the break on Social Security benefits “are the two I think we’ve got the most interest in, at least from the House side.”

The speaker said the federal tax cut that eliminated personal exemptions provided “revenue that the state saw as of no result of any action we took. And so how we address that I think will be important and whether we do exactly what we did in December ... it’s hard to tell. But I think a lot of our members in both the House and the Senate feel like that’s something they’d like to address at some point.”

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