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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Abolishing the sales tax on food, an idea often proposed and always rejected by the Utah Legislature, has a new champion in Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jon M. Huntsman Jr.
"Sales tax on food is one of the most regressive taxes in our society," Huntsman said. "It especially hurts seniors on fixed incomes and working families."
Huntsman told a combined meeting of the Provo Kiwanis and the Utah County Risk Management Association on Monday that if he is elected, he will seek to phase the tax out over the next four years.
He said he wants to give tax breaks to companies that relocate in Utah, wants to reduce the unemployment tax and wants to make Utah more competitive -- without hurting education or small cities and towns.
To do that, the state needs to change its tax structure, he said.
"The tax structure needs to be modified in order to broaden the tax burden," he said.
Huntsman said he would seek to revamp tax structure from one based on the state's former mining and manufacturing economy to reflect the new economy, which now is two-thirds service oriented.
But people shouldn't have to pay tax on food, he said.
An average Utah family pays about $439 annually in sales tax on food, which translates into about $150 million annually in revenue for the state, Huntsman said.
The tax hits low-income families and retired residents on a fixed income unfairly for money that is not discretionary spending, said Huntsman, a former U.S. ambassador to Singapore.
Other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls include former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, businessman Fred Lampropoulos, House Speaker Marty Stephens, state Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras, Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert, and State Sen. Parley Hellewell. University of Utah law school dean Scott Matheson Jr. is seeking the Democratic nomination.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)