Most Americans believe that taxing food is a bad idea. Eighty percent of all Americans do not pay tax on food. The 35 states that do not tax food have followed the recommendations of economists of all political persuasions that food tax is the most unfair and regressive of all taxes.
Utahns especially are in need of a tax reduction because they are some of the highest taxed and lowest paid people in the United States.State and local governments have been growing rapidly while personal income after inflation has been shrinking, creating an imbalance that eliminating sales tax from food will help to correct.
Most people who believe we should tax food are concerned that either essential government services would be cut or other taxes would be raised. There are a number of reasons why these things need not happen.
1. Surplus: Budget officials are now admitting an ongoing surplus of approximately $130 million per annum, and it may go as high as $150 million. Since the elimination of sales tax on food would cut only about $100 million from state and local government, this tax cut can be achieved without cutting essential services or raising other taxes.
In spite of the governor's protests, the surplus belongs to the people. If we let the surplus keep accumulating, rather than government having to budget carefully to cover its needs and essential services to the people, it will be looking for ways to use the surplus (i.e., lavish remodeling jobs and costly world trips that bear little fruit) in order to avoid admitting to the people that the huge tax increases of three years ago were not really necessary.
2. Loopholes: Special interests with powerful lobbies get big sales tax exemptions. Why shouldn't the average citizen get an exemption for food?
3. Wasteful and unwise spending: According to the governor's own Committee on Cost-effective Government, over $200 million is lost annually because of duplication of services, lax management and too much bureaucracy.
At the state level, Syncrete, cold fusion prior to confirmation, ski industry subsidies, lake pumps and procedures at Timpanogos Mental Health - and, at the local level, Select Telephone and Lake Wasatch - are just a few examples. Cutting wasteful spending will allow budget adjustments without hurting essential-service and human-service programs.
Any one of the above three would either totally or partially offset the loss of revenue from removing this tax. And they could and should all be implemented.
The main concerns of removing the sales tax on food are the effect it would have on such things as higher education, cities and towns, and human services.
With regard to higher education, teaching loads at state universities could be raised from six to eight hours per week, where they were just 10 years ago. (The national average is 10 hours per week.) This would save taxpayers $50 million per year and negate any need for tuition hikes.
The state could divert an additional 16th of a cent of the sales tax to cities and towns to make up their losses.
We might ask, "Why do we have no shortage of money when it comes to things such as funding the Olympics gamble, buying the Heber Creeper and numerous other non-essential and questionable outlays, but when it comes to education, human services and other essential things, the budget is then skin tight?"
Some suggestions have been made that an income tax credit would be a better way to help the poor. The folly with that is that a person must be making a set amount to even qualify, thereby eliminating most Utahns, and we all need a break against Utah's high taxes.
The initiative is intended to be a tax reduction to all people, not just the poor. We need to help the poor without pulling the wealthy down.
Utah's sales tax on food is the third highest in the nation. Its income taxes are 11th highest, and property taxes about 22nd highest. They all need to come down, but the priority is lowering the food tax. Sales tax on food is the most regressive tax (the lower one's income, the greater the percentage going to pay the tax). It is one of the only tax cuts that would help people making less than $40,000 per year.
If you vote against Initiative A, you'll be voting to maintain governmental inefficiency; you'll be voting to maintain special-interest loopholes in the present tax system; you'll be voting for a continuation of wasteful and unwise spending; and you'll be voting to let the government keep a surplus that belongs to the people.
If you vote for Initiative A, you'll be voting for a tax cut that benefits everyone; you'll be voting for greater governmental efficiency; and you'll be voting to stimulate Utah's private sector (which means all of us). Vote for Initiative A.