The potential loss of revenues for local governments, corrections, social services, health and education makes passage of the initiative to remove sales tax from food unwise, the Utah PTA board of directors says.
State PTA President Pat Hales said the board, after careful consideration, voted to oppose the initiative."Sales tax is a tax everyone pays. Everyone does not pay income tax. Everyone does not pay property tax. Everyone pays sales tax," making it one of the most equitable, said Hales.
State fiscal analysts predict revenue shortfalls totaling $196 million in combined general fund and uniform school fund over the next five years, she said. The analysts did not consider possible revenue losses if the sales tax on food was eliminated, which could reduce state income by another $88.5 million in fiscal 1992. Over five years, the loss would amount to $489 million, she said.
Although the state now has a revenue surplus, that is misleading, Hales said. Budgets are prepared almost two years in advance. If revenue projections are underestimated, there is a "surplus."
In 1990, the surplus provided for $10 million in textbooks and supplies; $15 million for school technology; $4 million for asbestos removal; $3 million for library/media centers; and $7 million to cover a shortfall in basic education funding from the previous year.
Such one-time appropriations are important to supplement the basic school program, she said.
The PTA officials are concerned that if the sales tax on food is removed, the earmark on income taxes for education may be in jeopardy as the state looks for sources of money to cover the losses in other departments of government.
"Income tax is the primary source of our education funding. Sales tax removal could cut $44 million from public education funding," Hales said.
"Utah has been in an up-and-down funding cycle for the past few years. This could be a devastating time for education as we once again enter into a time of projected deficit."