Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
SALT LAKE CITY – One day after opponents of a controversial tax reform bill finished collecting thousands of signatures to oppose it, Utah Legislators gathered to discuss their options.
Early Thursday morning, Gov. Gary Herbert, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams announced the bill, SB2001, would be repealed.
“In recent weeks, it has become clear that many people have strong concerns regarding legislation passed in December to restructure and revise our tax code,” Herbert, Adams and Wilson said in a joint statement.
“Crafting the right policy is critical to our state’s long-term success. Utah has never shrunk from a challenge and, working together, we will chart the right path forward. We will take time to reset and address this issue in the future in a way that allows all Utahns to fully understand the challenge we face, engage in the debate over the best solutions and, ultimately, enact policy that best positions Utah for decades to come,” they said.
When the Utah legislature convenes on Monday, Lawmakers will introduce legislation that will repeal the tax code changes.
SB2001, which was passed during special legislative session in December, lowers the the state income tax from 4.95% to 4.66% and offers tax breaks for low- to moderate-income residents. The package also adds the sales tax to some service-based businesses and increases the sales tax on gas and unprepared food.
Opponents spent the last three weeks gathering voter signatures in an effort to challenge the bill with a statewide referendum.
Craig Bowden organized volunteers in Cache County. He said internal numbers suggested there were more than 180,000 signatures collected throughout the state. They only needed 116,000.
“If they are putting up the white flag, surrendering and doing a full repeal, I’m all for that,” Bowden said. “A blanket repeal is what we are sticking to and holding the line on. We are organizing a watch dog lobbying effort to make sure they follow through with that. We want to make sure what we fought for is going to happen.”
“We heard the will of the people on this,” said Sen. Scott Sandall, R-District 17. “We are listening to what the people want. Clearly the referendum created a voice for people to be heard and it’s our mission now as a legislature to listen to that voice and repeal this and over time come together with all interested parties and see if we can’t do something to fix this structural imbalance.”
Sandall said he doesn’t expect legislators to take up a new tax reform measure during the upcoming legislative session that is scheduled to begin Monday, January 27.
“There’s won’t be enough time to go out and vet something else that we want to do different,” he said.
That was good news to Bowden who admitted today was a good day.
“I’m cautiously optimist,” he said.