It would be an understatement to say a lot has changed since the 1930s. From World War II and putting a man on the moon to significant advances in technology, these events, and innovations transformed how we purchase items, communicate with one another and connect with the world.

Utah’s population is growing, demographics are changing, and the economy is thriving. However, our current tax structure, which was designed in the early 1930s, is outdated and not meeting the needs of our modern economy. Utah state government has adequate revenue, the issue is allocation. State funding sources are siloed into four areas. This creates significant disproportionate support for essential programs:Property tax – is collected by local governments to match state funds for public education.Income tax – is constitutionally dedicated to education funding to support public and higher education.Gas tax – is constitutionally dedicated to funding transportation infrastructure.Sales tax – can be used to fund any state government service. It pays for essential services such as public safety, clean air programs, and social services like Medicaid. It also supplements support for public education, higher education, and transportation infrastructure.

Utah was the fastest growing state in the nation between 2010 and 2018, adding nearly 400,000 people. We enjoy a great quality of life here, with strong schools, world-class recreation, and safe, supportive communities. We are making real progress improving air quality, addressing homelessness, and helping our struggling neighbors. That’s what leads so many to move here. We should all want to protect and enhance what makes Utah such a wonderful place to live.

In order to address Utah’s tax structure and its current struggles, the Legislature this year created the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force. Part of the task force responsibility is to define the scope of the challenges. This includes studying four possible areas to resolve the imbalance – modifying the tax base, rebalancing existing tax rates, reducing government spending, and breaking down revenue silos. As this process begins, it is important to note that all options are on the table for consideration. There isn’t a defined solution, and we are working from a clean slate. 

Citizens have every right to be skeptical of politicians talking about “tax reform” and where that might lead. That’s why public involvement and input is so critical to help define the problem and any potential outcome.  We have a key opportunity for Utah to lead by crafting the best tax policy in the nation that continues to promote economic growth. We are not looking to increase revenue for the state now nor in the future. The goal of the task force is to improve Utah’s tax structure to make it more fair, more predictable, more stable and more transparent, improving our economy and protecting taxpayers. 

Utah is first in the nation for fiscal responsibility, is ranked as one of the top places to do business, and has low unemployment and a strong economy because our leaders before us came together to prepare for the future. Throughout history, transformation has brought about great things for our world, country, and state. Now it is our turn —all of us— to take the same tenacious foresight and plan for a stronger future for all Utahns so we can remain in the same trajectory.  As Stephen Covey stated, “There are three constants in life…change, choice and principles.” As the task force hosts eight town hall meetings around the state, defining the challenge and gathering input, we encourage everyone to learn more about the challenges we face, participate in the process, and work together with us to find solutions.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, co-chair of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee and member of the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force 

Rep. Robert Spendlove, co-chair of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee and member of the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force