Quinn, Christensen disagree over education funding at Summit County forum
The controversial tax reform bill that has spawned a statewide push to overturn it was a frequent topic of conversation at the recent legislative forum hosted by Summit County officials.
The law, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in December, won’t go into effect if an opposition group collects the required 116,000 statewide signatures by Jan. 21 to put the issue of tax reform on the ballot this fall. If that happens, Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croyden, said some “crazy ideas will come out of the Legislature” to deal with the budget situation.
The law includes a modest income tax cut while increasing taxes on services, fuel and unprepared food.
Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, spent nearly two years working on the issue only to vote against the final iteration of the bill at the special session last month.
Quinn was joined by Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, in voting against the bill, while Summit County’s three other Statehouse officials supported it.
Quinn said the law leaves a $534 million hole in education funding, which would have to be filled by a further action of the Legislature.
“At the end of the day, there will be harm to public education: That’s why I voted against it,” he said.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, disagreed.
“There’s no way in hell public education is going to get underfunded,” Christensen said. “There will be another half billion (dollar) increase to public ed this year.”
He added that the committees he’s on were instructed to cut spending 5% across the board in an effort to hold education harmless as tax reform takes effect.
Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, said that 90% of the law is good, pointing to what he said amounted to a $632 million tax cut for Utahns. He added that, with the multiple town halls and public hearings, the bill had more scrutiny and public screening than most others, but that lawmakers still have a long way to go to reform how the state collects revenue to align with changes in the broader economy.
Wilde said he supported the bill despite disagreeing with some of its elements.
“I’m not a big food tax person, but it got people to come along,” he said, referencing the increase in tax on groceries that has drawn strong opposition.
He added that it’s challenging to find places to trim the state’s budget, as the vast majority is consumed by Medicaid and education funding.
“What are you going to cut?” he asked.
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