Backers, opponents of Amendment G make their case ahead of the election

Oct 13, 2020, 8:13 AM | Updated: 12:21 pm
Amendment G child abuse bus school student school bus drivers COVID-19...
FILE - This Jan. 7, 2015 file photo shows public school buses parked (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

SALT LAKE CITY – One of the issues on Utahns’ ballots this year will be whether or not to amend the Utah Constitution and will appear as Amendment G.

Currently, income tax revenue in Utah is used only for school funding. If Amendment G passes, it would expand those tax dollars to programs for children and the disabled— while also triggering additional legislation passed earlier this year that could increase how much Utah spends on education in total. The amendment would also create a stabilization account so spending isn’t cut if the economy goes south.

Amendment G

If Amendment G passes, it would trigger House Bill 357, a piece of legislation approved earlier this year that creates a public education stabilization fund to protect that money during economic downturns. Lawmakers would have to fund student enrollment growth, and that money would have to keep pace with inflation each year.

Also as part of the bill, a minimum of 10% of all new income tax revenue would go toward increasing per student spending over the next few years. 

During a news conference on Monday, Utah School Boards Association President McKay Jensen argued Amendment G would increase transparency. 

“The [current] constitutional amendment provides access to a bank account,” Jensen said. “However, the constitution does not tell us what the balance in that account will be in any given year…The opportunity to create a system for guaranteeing that balance, or at least addressing that balance, is something very worthwhile.” 

Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner (R-Ogden), who helped broker the deal with education leaders, said she was proud that Utah had found a way to increase public education spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We will finally have a funding framework that public education can count on year after year, and we’ll make sure that we can stabilize and grow public education,” Millner said. 

But others have serious concerns about Amendment G. 

The advocacy group Voices for Utah Children came out against the measure during their own news conference last week. 

Senior Policy Analyst Anna Thomas argued that the state’s math doesn’t add up. 

“How will we ensure that we’re investing responsibly in our children and our future by having more expenses come out of the same pot of money? Which, by the way, we’re told every year by our state leaders is too small to help all the Utah families we advocate for,” Thomas said. 

She was also skeptical of legislators, who had cut education funding during the 2008 recession. 

“If there is extra money in the education fund every year, enough to fund other programs that help children, I think Utah families would be very interested to hear that,” Thomas said. “How can we be ignoring so many educational needs?”     

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Backers, opponents of Amendment G make their case ahead of the election