‘Political Insiders’ Doubt Lawmakers Will Hike Taxes for Education in 2017

Utah State Capitol 14Our “Political Insiders” say they do not expect lawmakers to go for an income tax hike in 2017 to better fund public education.

A pro-education group called “Education First” says they plan to push lawmakers to adopt a 7/8 of 1 percent the tax hike. The group is also planning to put the question on the ballot in 2018, either as a non-binding ballot referendum or a citizen initiative petition.

Those behind the effort say even though lawmakers have put hundreds of millions of dollars into public education in recent years, the income tax hike is needed to fix a systemic problem in funding.

Our “Political Insiders” and readers say there’s almost no chance that lawmakers approve the tax hike in 2017. 57% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats and 47% of our readers told us there’s no way the legislature approves a tax increase next year. However, those results stand in stark contrast to the anonymous comments left by our respondents, who mostly say the funding increase is sorely needed.


Selected anonymous comments.

“A lot of taxpayers and especially our most tight-fisted lawmakers don’t get the fact that investing in public education really grows the economy(They want to “starve the beast” instead). I was a citizen lobbyist for UEA in a legislative session about ten years ago. I asked my state senator, “Who was the largest employer in Kaysville?” He couldn’t answer. I then said, “Davis High School.” He was justifiably impressed by my astute observation, I might add. It may be hard to believe, but teachers really work in this state. Almost all of a teacher’s salary is invested back into the local economy. For every $1 invested in our public schools about $1.40 comes back to our economy. That is a 40% return on our investment. (There is actual research to back this up…skeptics!) Another fact that I have shared with several lawmakers is when I retired from the educational profession, the employee assigned to my case at URS (Utah Retirement Systems) had to go back five years to find my highest salary year to begin to average for my retirement calculation (Get my implication?). Some lawmakers refused to believe me. Hey, I was there I didn’t want to believe it either. Go figure. Please remember that a true increase in the Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) will increase resources for books, supplies, and many other things for students other than just teacher salaries. The general “legislative will” does not seem to support our schools. That is a true shame on our legislature and a black eye for Utah.”

“Right after an election is the only time they would do such a thing.”

“It would be a good thing, but I am doubtful whether Utah’s politicians will have the courage to make it happen.”

“Gov Herbert said education was his priority this campaign season. It’s time for a head tax or less of a dependent deduction and put toward education.”

“It needs to happen. Failing to do this will show that the state legislature doesn’t represent their constituents.”

“We can’t kick this can down the road any longer. Our schools are underfunded, we have a serious teacher shortage because of the low pay and legislative meddling, we will now have untrained teachers in the classroom, classroom sizes are getting even larger, and the only answer is more funding.”

“Education is the last on the list for Utah lawmakers. They do not want to raise taxes. I have a better way. If there is enough money in the budget to fund an Oakland coal port, and enough to set aside to fight over public lands, and enough to fight a bathroom bill, and enough to fight marriage equality, I think we should abandon all those types of projects and put that “excess” money toward education.”

“GOPpers paying for education with a popular polling tax hike? No deal, not when there are all those invisible wolves to hunt.”

“There are big business names in the group, and the public supports the concept. BUT, the Stephenson/Hughes/PCE “starve the child” group of legislators is powerful and skilled at working behind the scenes. They don’t hold as many press conferences because “diverting more and more public funds to charters because vouchers failed” is a bad soundbite, but they carve out new chunks of money every single year. They make up concepts like “phantom students” and “equity pupil unit” to muddy the water, they head all of the related budget subcommittees, and they introduce bills late in the session to avoid scrutiny. I’m not optimistic for public ed. getting a desperately needed increase.”

“The public, in general, does not value education as we should but rather value our cell phones, high school sports, etc. above the education of our children.”

“Despite the need for many years, any tax increase usually meets stiff opposition from some influential lawmakers.”

“Perhaps Utahns will be embarrassed enough over the status of education in the state that something will finally happen. Rather than making public support of private schools (e.g., by vouchers) look enticing, all that the Conservative effort to starve public schools has done is to make them and the entire state look foolish. Kansas used to have great public schools, but is now a laughingstock – Utah has been rapidly moving that direction. I hope we’ll have enough regard for our children to give them a better education.”

“If you are going to push for a tax increase in 2017, it probably isn’t the best idea to announce it in 2016 before the election so everyone running for office will have to go on record as being against it. Why wouldn’t you just wait until closer to the session, when everyone is two years away from facing an election, and then push for it. Not smart politics.”

“The legislature as it is currently comprised, will not approve a tax increase for education. Now, if it were proposed for hunting non-existent wolves, or fighting for land that isn’t ours, they’d fall over themselves to approve it.”

“The Republicans in Utah are so anti-tax and so anti-education, that it won’t happen. The sinister part of me believes that this is a concerted effort to so degrade public education that people will flock to put their children in charter schools, where profit can be had for investors.”

“Please stop. My stomach hurts from laughing so hard!”

“I certainly believe there is a desire to increase funding for education in both caucuses on the Hill. However, I would urge caution to anyone who thinks that raising taxes is easy. See the experience UTA had with Proposition 1 in Salt Lake County.”

“If they want to raise taxes this is the session to do it, right after an election. I don’t think there is a lot of public support for raising taxes right now or any perceived crises for raising money for education.”