HJR13 by House Majority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, was barely approved by the House and Senate in the 2012 Legislature, which ended in early March.
The repeal shows just how much conservatives in the Legislature don’t even want to talk about a tax hike in the 2012 elections – even though the resolution would only have been a non-binding opinion question on the general election ballot.
“Some conservatives want it gone,” Hughes told UtahPolicy.
Hughes, who while a GOP leader and conservative has backed some non-conservative issues over the years, like public transit, said he doesn’t see a coalition building to fight the repeal effort.
UtahPolicy has been told that GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, in an election year battle himself, agreed to put items on Wednesday’s special session agenda call only if Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, had the votes lined up to pass each measure.
Thus, by being on the call it appears Republicans have the votes to kill HJR13.
“I don’t like it (his opinion question being pulled from the November ballot), “but I’m also not going to fight it,” said Hughes.
You can read HJR13 here.
On the November general ballot the question would read: SHOULD THE STATE IMPOSE A SALES AND USE TAX RATE EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN .15% AND THE SALES AND USE TAX RATE IMPOSED WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF AN UNINCORPORATED AREA OF A COUNTY OR A CITY OR TOWN, under Title 59, Chapter 12, Part 7 or 14, TO SUPPORT UTAH'S HERITAGE, ARTS, CULTURE, AND MUSEUMS?
Some counties already impose a special arts and zoo sales tax. Hughes’ question is whether the state should impose a special arts and museum tax not to exceed 0.15 percent.
Because HJR13 only is a non-binding question, the Legislature’s budget office didn’t do a fiscal note on what the tax hike could bring in, but only listed what it would cost to place it on the ballot ($14,000).
The Utah Taxpayers Association tax handbook shows that the current Zoo, Arts and Parks (ZAP) sales tax of 0.1 percent adopted in some, but not all, of Utah’s 29 counties brought in $31.8 million in 2007 and $25.8 million in 2010.
Should the Legislature ultimately pass a 0.15 tax statewide for arts and museums, that would bring in more money than the ZAP tax does today.
In arguing for his non-binding ballot question during the session, Hughes said that Utah’s arts and museums are suffering financially.
And since all of Utah society benefits from those groups, it is fair to ask citizens if they want to help pay for them outside of what is already being done by local governments’ ZAP tax.
HJR13 is non-binding. But if Utahns voted in a large majority for it, that result could be used in future Legislatures to push lawmakers to adopt the new tax, or to put a binding question on the ballot to let citizens raise their own sales taxes for support of the arts and museums.
Meanwhile, UtahPolicy has been told by Capitol Hill sources that some local governments were concerned about having HJR13 on the November ballot.
While it is a non-binding opinion question, some city bosses feared asking citizens about a possible sales tax hike could hurt their own bond approval ballot questions.
In other words, citizens could become confused between approving a local bond for county or school projects and voting for a possible sales tax hike and vote against all of them.
HJR13 passed with the bare minimum of support in the House, 38-32 with five being absent. It passed the Senate with three extra votes, 18-8 with three being absent.
You can see the House support here; and the Senate vote here.
Both Waddoups and Lockhart voted against it when it passed the 2012 Legislature.
All Democrats in the House and Senate voted for it, along with some Republicans.
Hughes said “the other side,” meaning those who supported it during the session, don’t seem to be rallying to his cause in the special session, so he anticipates HJR13 will be repealed and Utahns won’t be asked their opinion on the ballot about a sales tax hike for the arts and museums.