Lawmakers Look to Shift Balance on Education Funding

Lawmakers Look to Shift Balance on Education Funding

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two state lawmakers are pushing a measure that would put a bigger income tax burden on those who place the most demand on the public school system.

State Reps. Pat Jones and Steve Mascaro call it an unusual bipartisan effort. They shared the idea with an assortment of community and education groups at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Jones, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, said the measure would raise almost $90 million for education in its first year. It would do so by shifting tax brackets so that those with higher incomes or more children pay a bigger portion.

Mascaro, a Republican from West Jordan, supports the idea because it brings a better balance to Utah's tax policy.

"To the pioneer forefathers, it was not only important that everyone carry their own weight but that it be fair for all concerned," he said.

He said he doesn't think the current system is fair, because those families with more children get more deductions on their state income taxes -- so they're actually paying less to educate their kids.

Under the proposal, Utah's average household -- claiming four exemptions making $45,000 per year -- would see their tax burden drop by $29. A household of five making $35,000 a year would pay $67 more. A three-member household making $75,000 would pay an additional $37.

Single people would see no change under the bill.

The Jones-Mascaro measure was proposed last year, but it failed to gain support in the Legislature.

They say they're trying to gain grass-roots support for the bill this time around.

Jones acknowledged they may have a difficult time selling the proposal.

"If we want quality education, we have to be willing to pay for it," she said.

Money raised under the measure would go into a fund to be disbursed to the state's school districts to help them cope with more demanding federal education requirements.

Jones said those who would be required to pay more under the plan would have the financial blow softened by changes in federal tax policy, where the child tax credit has been raised from $600 to $1,000.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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