To the editor:
Deseret News editors revealed a disturbing lack of depth of understanding of revenue, taxation and budgeting issues in a Dec. 19 editorial supporting continued earmarking of income taxes to the Uniform School Fund.That constitutional earmarking is an outdated, unnecessary barrier to budgeting flexibility that should be eliminated through legislative and voter action.
Ending the earmarking is supported by the Constitutional Review Commission and the Tax Recodification Commission, both committees of knowledgeable policymakers appointed by the governor. A bill to eliminate income tax earmarking passed the Senate in last year's legislative general session but disappeared off the House calendar the last day of the session as part of a behind-the-scenes deal to avert a teacher strike.
Virtually all tax experts who have examined this issue recognize the need to remove this provision of the Constitution, which was established to protect education at a time when its proponents were few and much less influential than today. Utah is the only state in the nation to preserve this archaic tax structure.
While there is no question that public education is woefully underfunded in Utah, there is likewise no reason to assume that ending the earmarking will hurt education budgets. Increasing funding for public education has strong and broad support among lawmakers, the media and the public.
Given past tax protests focused on surpluses, it is likely that the next target of tax protest/tax cut campaigns will be the income tax. So it may well be wise for educators to stop clinging to the earmark comfort blanket now, before it becomes a target along with education budgets.
Earmarking is the single biggest obstacle to a thorough, badly needed reform of Utah's tax structure. It's time to end the earmark.
Fairness in Taxation Coalition
Salt Lake City