Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Utah Legislature faces myriad issues as week 3 begins

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

It's easy to blast Utah's leaders, but we're all culprits. We all want someone, somehow, to clean up the air. But most of us aren't willing to make personal sacrifices. That's what's required. I enjoyed one writer who aimed nasty barbs at the governor but admitted she didn't take public transit because it was too "inconvenient." We ought to be taking public transit even if it takes a little effort. We'd prefer that someone else make the sacrifice — like workers at oil refineries who would lose wages if we shut them down. This is a tough problem. The easy stuff has been done.

Should the Legislature restore the sales tax on food?

Pignanelli: Sales tax on food is regressive and hurts the working families that do not qualify for food stamps. Corporations and self-employed businessmen/businesswomen (like me) legally and appropriately reduce their tax burdens by deducting the costs of high calorie meals at expensive fancy restaurants. Yet, families that purchase the healthy elements of a balanced meal at a grocery store are rewarded for their efforts — with a tax. I believe the Legislature understands this disparity and will ignore the calls to increase the sales tax on food.

Webb: I support a balanced, stable, low-burden tax system that promotes free enterprise while providing for necessary government services. Therefore, I strongly support restoring the state sales tax on food while lowering the overall state rate to maintain revenue neutrality. Everyone will win, especially low-income people. They get a double tax break by paying lower sales taxes on everything they buy, while also receiving a refund for the food sales tax they pay. They come out way ahead.

We get a broader-based, fairer and more stable overall tax system, helping avoid dramatic fluctuations when economic conditions change — without hurting anyone. What's not to like?

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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