You win some, you lose some.
At least that's how Utah businesses could look at the 1998 Legislature.There were winners like Utah's high-tech industry, which may reap the benefits of a new income-tax credit for research and development costs. And there were losers like the manufacturing sector, which may eventually give up a portion of a sales-tax exemption it now enjoys on new equipment purchases.
"We're trying to compete (in manufacturing) on a world level," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper and president of the Utah Taxpayers Association. "Many Utah manufacturers planned for this exemption. Companies from outside Utah located here counting on this. Now what?"
Under pressure from Gov. Mike Leavitt, lawmakers decided to allow the manufacturers' sales-tax exemption to rise to 100 percent in the 1998-99 budget year, thereby fulfilling their original promise. But beginning in the 1999-2000 budget year, the exemption will be pared back to 80 percent.
The result will be that manufacturers will pay about $5 million a year more into state coffers after this year. That money has been earmarked for "research and development" tax credits, which should benefit the high-tech companies that are heavily oriented toward developing new products.
One bill passed by the Legislature allows for a 6 percent income-tax credit for basic R&D equipment, and another bill allows for a 6 percent income-tax credit for other R&D costs and personnel.
Of course, lawmakers could decide to leave the manufacturers' tax exemption at 100 percent. They will study the tax exemption over the next year to see if it really has returned the economic benefits to the state that manufacturers said it would when it was originally passed.
Perhaps the biggest victory on the business front is a new law that now requires state agencies to specify the costs to businesses of the myriad rules and regulations it promulgates every year.
"It's a huge win for business," said Sen. Steve Poulton, R-Hol-la-day. "It is a wonderful oversight mechanism because now the department heads are accountable for the costs they impose on business."
Farmers, on the other hand, could be paying more. Lawmakers passed a bill requiring farmers with payrolls of $8,000 to $50,000 a year to carry workers compensation insurance, or $300,000 in employer liability insurance, on their employees. Those with payrolls of more than $50,000 must have workers compensation, while those below $8,000 a year are exempt from the insurance requirement.