A proposal to amend the Utah Constitution allowing legislators to put any tax increase to a vote of the people basically died on Wednesday morning in a Senate committee.
Sen. Aaron Osmond’s SJR 2 would have given the legislature the ability to pass a tax increase, but not have it go into effect unless the public approved the move. Under the bill, a public vote on any tax increase would not be mandatory, but lawmakers would be able to ask for a binding vote of the public.
“This would enable us to take something directly to the people,” said Osmond. “We have heard about these surveys that show people would favor a tax increase to pay for schools and such. This would allow us to go to the people to verify that.”
Members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee were extremely skeptical of the proposal, wondering if it would lead to lawmakers abdicating their responsibility as legislators.
Sen. Jim Dabakis went so far as to dub it the “gutless legislator bill.”
“Our job as lawmakers comes down to us having to make hard decisions,” said Dabakis. “We may need to raise taxes to fund education. It will take guts for us to do that, but this will only work if we have the intestinal fortitude to make those choices.”
Sen. Howard Stephenson, who also heads up the Utah Taxpayer Association, liked the proposal.
“Why not let voters have their say? This would be an important tool in our quiver as lawmakers,” he added.
Mark Mickelsen of the Utah Education Association said the proposal would cripple the state’s ability to fund education in the future.
“If this passes, it would likely become the default position for lawmakers as they would want voters to weigh in on any tax proposal.”
The committee declined to take any action on the bill, meaning Osmond could bring it back at a future date. Given the temperature of the committee, it seems unlikely that they would be in the mood to reconsider the legislation.