Utah House leader ‘encouraged’ by poll showing half of residents oppose changing income tax earmark

Apr 5, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 8:35 pm

In a joint letter from both houses of the Utah Legislature on Friday, lawmakers announced they will...

FILE: “More Bread for Utahns!” members Bill Hooper, Sharon Roper and Margo Markowski rally to repeal Utah’s grocery sales tax at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY  — At least one member of Utah’s House leadership isn’t worried about recent polling showing half of Utahns oppose changing how income tax money in Utah can be spent. 

In fact, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, told KSL NewsRadio he’s “encouraged” by the numbers.

The recent Deseret News and Hinckley Institute poll only sought to ask how voters felt about changing what income tax in Utah pays for. Per Utah’s Constitution, the money must fund public and higher education, children’s social services, and people with disabilities.  

“The question will be when it goes to the ballot, ‘do you want to remove the sales tax on food, and if so, we need the flexibility inside the state budget in order to do that and so we have to remove the earmark,’ he said. “That’s a more accurate question of what’s going to be on the ballot.”

Schultz said that when asked that way, he believes Utahns will support the change in Utah income tax.

“When you ask that question accurately, I think those numbers shift quite a bit,” he said.

The poll gives an early glimpse into how Utahns feel about a proposed constitutional amendment, recently approved for the November 2024 ballot by the legislature.

The proposed amendment asks that, if education is prioritized, would voters then approve allowing state income tax to be used for other state needs? Half of respondents said they don’t support that, while 36% said they do.  

The big tax cut bill recently signed by Gov. Cox includes a provision that the state portion of the sales tax on food can only be eliminated if voters approve changing this earmark for education money. 

“We do not have the option to responsibly take the sales tax off food and still balance the state’s budget,” Schultz argues. 

Legislative leaders have said it would cost the state $200 million dollars to take off the state sales tax right now. 

“Could we do it right now? Yes, we could. There’s no doubt we could do that right now,” Shultz said. “But what happens three or four years down the road? That’s what we’re looking at,” he said.

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Utah House leader ‘encouraged’ by poll showing half of residents oppose changing income tax earmark