Editorial: Parkites should back bill to eliminate grocery tax

It may strike some as an unusual bill for a Republican to sponsor. Tim Quinn, Park City’s fiscally conservative representative in the Utah State Legislature, is advocating for a slight increase to the state general sales tax rate.

That’s the price Quinn says we should pay to eliminate the state’s 1.75 percent grocery food tax, as laid out in his bill, H.B. 148. And it’s a proposal Parkites should back.

The intent of the bill, which was recently introduced in the House, is to provide a break for low- and fixed-income families, who typically spend a disproportionate amount of their paychecks on food. According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, it would accomplish just that, though the exact benefit would vary by family.

The legislation would be roughly revenue neutral for the state, the fiscal analysis notes, with a 0.24 percent increase to the general sales tax rate offsetting revenue lost from nixing the grocery tax.

Quinn, a second-year legislator, admits his bill will receive pushback from some of his colleagues within his own party. But, he has said, the legislation addresses not an economic issue but a moral one. In a town like Park City, where some of the hardest working residents struggle to get by, it’s difficult to disagree with that characterization.

Park City has long espoused the importance of ensuring its working class — the folks who staff the restaurants, hotels and shops vital to the tourism economy — can make ends meet and continue to have a place in our town. As the cost of housing has risen, though, it’s become increasingly difficult for workers and their families to make their lives here.

The Park City Council, in fact, has deemed the related issue of social equity so important it’s promised to make the ideal a major part of its agenda. But while it can be hard to see where the municipal government has the power to take concrete steps to dramatically increase social equity, Quinn’s bill would have a real-world effect on Park City’s lower-income families. Even if it only amounts to a few hundred dollars per year for most of them, that’s money they can spend on, fittingly, a week or two of groceries.

It’s yet unclear what kind of support the legislation will receive on Capitol Hill, where as of Tuesday it hadn’t undergone any committee hearings. But there should be a united voice rising out of Park City in favor of it — not only from the members of our working class who would most benefit, but also from those who understand the importance of ensuring they are able to remain a part of our community.

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