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Legislature may bring back food tax in a special session

File photo of the State Capitol in Salt Lake City. Lawmakers may need to address tax reform, and potentially reinstate the food tax, in a special session. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — With just three days left in the 2019 legislative session, it now appears the Utah legislature will need a special session to fully resolve tax reform and budgeting. And that special session, KSL has learned, could result in the return of the food tax.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, tells KSL’s Dave & Dujanovic the legislature has few options.

“Without the tax on services that was rejected last week, there are only a few big options left to fix our structural imbalance,” Weiler texted the show’s producer, Andrew Hull. “One of them is fully restoring the tax on food.”

Members of the Utah House, lead by Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, want to withhold about $400 million in spending until tax reform is figured out – effectively passing a bare-bones spending plan. According to Wilson, the 2019 session could end with a budget that only includes core spending, with the intent of resolving other spending and revenue along with the tax reform they hoped to accomplish this winter in a special session.

Among other issues, lawmakers need to fix a $340 million imbalance between the education and general funds.

Some Senate leaders have their own plan that would boost per-student spending by 4 percent and spend most of the new state revenue, which would later be used to fund a tax cut during the special session.

In a news conference announcing tax reform would not happen this session, Wilson and other Republican leaders said they were still committed to making it happen. What had not previously been said publicly was that legislators would consider reinstating the food tax, as Weiler confirmed to KSL.