SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns might be paying a little less at the grocery store under a bill the House passed Tuesday to remove sales tax on food.
HB148, sponsored by Rep.Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, would remove the 1.75 percent tax on food, excluding candy, and increase sales taxes on other purchases from 4.7 percent to 4.92 percent.
Quinn, who has called the food tax a moral issue, said that means shoppers would pay an additional $2.20 on every $1,000 spent on food. He said it's a trade-off he's willing to make to help people who are less fortunate.
The House passed the bill 42-27. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, opposed the bill, saying removing sales tax on food narrows the tax base and places the burden on fewer people.
"I think that is a wrong policy move," he said during debate on the House floor.
Quinn said sales tax is the best kind of tax because people can choose to buy or not buy something.
"But when it comes to food, we don’t get that choice," he said.
Quinn also noted that there is no sales tax on prescription drugs that some people take to preserve their lives.
"Don’t we do the same thing for food?" he asked.
Democrats unsuccessfully tried to include hygiene products, arguing those items, like food, are essential, and taking away the tax would help people struggling on low incomes.
"Hygiene products are a basic necessity. They should be treated as such when it comes to taxation. People shouldn’t be punished for taking care of themselves and their basic needs. This bill is the logical extension of existing laws regarding other medical necessities," Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna.1 comment on this story
Duckworth is sponsoring HB262 which would remove the sales tax from tampons, pads, and incontinence products such as diapers. The bill is scheduled for hearing in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said there are families and older residents having to choose every day between buying food or paying for medication.
"I think that as society we have to do better," she said.
Utah would join 40 states that don't tax food if the Legislature passes the bill and the governor signs it into law.