If you're a Democrat in the Senate, you can forget any tax-cutting bill you're sponsoring. Republican senators waylaid three such measures Monday.
They then turned around and gave approval to a ski resort sales tax exemption sponsored by a Republican senator. Such is party politics in the Legislature.Senators barely gave preliminary approval to Sen. Karl Swan's quarter-cent sales tax reduction, SB76. Swan is a Democrat from Tooele, and while GOP senators allowed his bill to proceed in the legislative process, they tabled SB76, an act that just about finishes the bill.
GOP senators want an income tax reduction this year, not a sales tax reduction. If they're forced to accept any kind of sales tax cut they can pass a sales tax bill sponsored by a House Republican. Better to let one of their own get sponsorship credit on a tax-cutting bill than a Democrat.
Senators then killed a bill by Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, that would have removed the state sales tax from food over a four-year period. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said while the state may have money this year for the first phase, it probably couldn't afford the future tax reductions Farley's bill called for. "Besides, taking part of the tax off each year for four years would be a nightmare for small businessmen," Hillyard said.
And they killed another Swan bill, SB101, that would have given a third of the federal earned income tax credit to Utahns on their state returns. The measure would have cost the state $10 million, money the Republicans said the state didn't have.
After all that, GOP senators approved Hillyard's tax break for ski resorts, over much criticism by Democratic senators.
Hillyard's SB34 was killed earlier in the session, but Hillyard watered down the tax credit and resurrected the measure. As amended, the bill would let ski resort owners claim a sales tax refund on ticket sales for improvements made to lifts, snow-making equipment or slope-grooming equipment.
For every $3 spent on such equipment the resort could get a $1 refund on sales tax paid on lift tickets. Hillyard said the "economic development" incentive could mean $34 million reinvested into Utah's economy. He figures the $2 million lost to the state's treasury would more than be made up by increases in ski tourism and accompanying tax revenue.
"I say these rich fellas who own these resorts can afford to buy this equipment themselves without our help if it's good business," said Sen. Omar Bunnell, D-Price. "This is the trickle-down theory; help the big guys and hope it trickles down to the small guy."