Norm Bangerter hopes to reverse his first-term reputation as the governor responsible for the highest tax increase in history.
"I would like to be known as the governor who reduced taxes," he told the Women's Legislative Caucus Thursday.Bangerter, lobbying for the $19 million tax reduction he recommended in his annual budget, said he expects state agencies to find a variety of ways to spend the money rather than give it back to taxpayers. As governor, he said, he is trying to find a delicate tax balance.
"Where is the point that we tax too high and drive businesses away and where is the point that we tax too low and don't take care of necessary infrastructure?" he said.
Bangerter successfully recommended a $230 million tax increase in 1986 to cover expected shortfalls in the state budget. Critics said it was the largest tax increase in state history.
Two years later, the state had a $110 million surplus. Bangerter persuaded legislators to refund $80 million to taxpayers last summer and to reduce income tax rates.
Now, Bangerter wants to freeze property taxes, requiring a vote of the people to lift the freeze. He said he chose property taxes because he believes they are the most unpopular.
Voters rejected three tax-limiting initiatives in November's general election, one of which would have reduced property taxes. Bangerter said the outcome may have been different if the property tax initiative was presented alone.
"The initiatives were probably not defeated because people were convinced we were doing things right," Bangerter said.
Cities and counties have protested Bangerter's proposed freeze, saying their governments rely on property taxes more than any other. Bangerter said the state's education budget also relies on property taxes.
"I'm sensitive to the fact we have to do it carefully without any damage to any sector of society," he said about his plan.
Bangerter also said he wants to ensure the state's education system will make Utah children competitive with other children worldwide. He also wants to emphasize economic development, making sure enough jobs are available for the children when they become adults.