Touring Utah with tax reform task force, Tim Quinn says outlook for legislation still uncertain
Park City’s representative in the Utah House has been on the road for the past few months as part of a group commissioned to figure out state tax reform.
Tim Quinn, R-Heber, one of the appointees to the state Legislature’s Tax Reform Task Force, has long focused on taxation in his time on Capitol Hill. And with a half-dozen town halls down, he doesn’t yet know if lawmakers will come together for a special session on the issue before next January.
“If we can come to an agreement as a task force on what the solution should be, then yes, there will be a special session. … We don’t want to rush it,” Quinn said.
Quinn sponsored the ill-fated tax reform bill that sparked controversy near the end of the 2019 legislative session. The Tax Equalization and Reduction Act originally would have decreased the state sales tax rate and applied sales taxes to more services, such as legal advice, alongside breaking down the “firewall” that earmarks state income tax to be applied solely to education.
Business and education interests both came out in opposition to the bill, and the tax reform envisioned by Gov. Gary Herbert in his State of the State address was put on hold. Quinn said that the bill’s failure to pass wasn’t due to its relatively late appearance during the legislative session, saying that it had been considered and worked on for months beforehand.
“Hindsight’s 20/20, but I think we could have done a different job and perhaps better at communicating with the public what the bill really was about,” Quinn said. “People still think here seven months later that it was a tax increase. It was not, it was a tax cut.”
House Minority Leader Rep. Brian S. King, who represents Summit Park, believes that the public, statewide tour undertaken by the task force is a step in the right direction. King said that while, as the leader of the Democratic caucus, he was happy to see Quinn’s bill stall, he didn’t think there had been enough time for the public to see the legislation before it was time to vote on it.
“Tim worked hard on it with a lot of people behind the scenes,” King said. “But when I say a lot of people, they were all insiders.”
The task force is made up of 14 officials — five state senators, five state representatives, and four nonvoting members — is touring several locations to get input from Utahns. Quinn said that while there’s not a scheduled event in Summit County, he is willing to make appearances to gather more input from the area’s stakeholders.
Quinn said that attendance has been strong at most of the events, but claimed that interest groups have had a presence at each of them. He said he is frustrated that some of the dialogue around the tax reform initiative is focusing on the dead bill, particularly among pro-business groups like the Utah Taxpayers Association and pro-education funding groups like the Utah Educators Association.
“It’s a shame because that’s not the starting point and certainly not the focal point of this conversation,” Quinn said.
As the summer goes on, Quinn says it has become less certain that a special session will be called to address the issue. But he remains adamant that the tax reform effort is meant to equalize revenue sources rather than change the amount of cash flow.
There are two town halls remaining on the tour. The panel was set to visit Moab on Saturday, July 20, before finishing the run in Utah County on July 30.
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