Of all the taxes that could be cut by the estimated $19 million state surplus, many Utahns still favor reducing the sales tax on food, the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll shows.
That's good news for the leaders of the tax-limitation movement, who said this past week that they'll start another initiative petition drive, this time to take the sales tax off food. Tax protesters got three tax-cutting initiatives on the 1988 ballot, but all failed. This new petition, if successful, will appear on the 1990 ballot.Utah is one of the few states that applies its sales tax to food. In addition, Utah has a relatively high sales tax.
Legislators last month refused to go along with Gov. Norm Bangerter's recommended $19 million tax decrease. Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that a third of Utahns - 32 percent - favor spending that $19 million on reducing the sales tax on food.
However, reducing the food tax found little support among the majority Republicans in the Legislature. The minority Democrats led that charge and got nowhere.
House and Senate Republicans got in a last-day fight over whether the income tax or sales tax (across the board) should be reduced, and the $19 million tax cut wasn't made at all.
Bangerter says he may ask a special legislative session later this year to reconsider the $19 million tax cut. Or he may just wait until the 1990 general session and ask lawmakers to make the cut then.
A number of GOP senators wanted to increase the deduction for federal taxes paid on state returns. But Jones found that that alternative got only 15 percent support among those he questioned.
If the $19 million isn't cut from taxes, almost 60 percent of Utahns want it spent on education, Jones found.
A number of other senators wanted to spend the $19 million to reduce the state's bonded indebtedness. But Jones found that only 2 percent wanted to spend the money on state buildings.
House Speaker Nolan Karras, R-Roy, and a number of House Democrats wanted to put the $19 million into the state land trust fund, where its interest would be used to help fund public education.
Bangerter only guesses that there will be a $19 million surplus next fiscal year, which starts July 1. It could be more or less. Some state officials believe that Utah's economy is growing faster than expected. If that's so, there could be considerably more of a surplus at the end of next fiscal year.
There's about $25 million in the state's surplus "Rainy Day" fund now, so next year that could increase even more. Then, no doubt, there will be another debate in the 1990 Legislature over whether it's better to reduce taxes, spend more on education or buy down the state's bonded indebtedness with the extra money.
The Utah Legislature chose not to reduce taxes by $19 million. In your opinion, should the $19 million be used to reduce one of the following taxes?
Sales tax on food 32 percent
Sales tax on all items 11 percent
Income tax rate 12 percent
Property tax 12 percent
Increase federal deduction 15 percent
Other 11 percent
Don't know 6 percent
If the $19 million isn't used to reduce taxes, where should it go?
Improve state buildings 2%
Education trust fund 20%
Spend on education directly 58%
Don't know 6%
Sample size: 607; margin of error plus or minus 4%