‘Political Insiders’ say restoring sales tax on food is a bad idea

Utah lawmakers have reached a deal to restore the state portion of the sales tax on some food items, but our “Political Insiders” don’t like that idea.

Lawmakers say restoring the sales tax on food would help stabilize the tax base, but opponents say it’s a regressive tax since it disproportionally affects lower income Utahns. Lawmakers removed the sales tax on food in 2007 as part of a broader tax reform package.

A majority of those who responded to our survey oppose reinstating the sales tax on food.

  • 62% of our Republican “insiders” are opposed.
  • 81% of our Democratic panelists say it’s a bad idea.
  • 94% of our readers don’t want to reinstate the sales tax on food.


Selected anonymous comments:

The worst possible tax is one on food, have some compassion on those who have to make decisions on food vs. medicine.

Terrible idea. I can not believe the GOP is even CONSIDERING such a regressive tax. Boo!

Raising the food tax was a bad idea in 2011 and still bad today. Why push people just hanging on without help to needing help?

Sales tax on food disproportionately burdens the poor. Meanwhile, the state consistently runs a $100 million budget surplus. It’s clear the poor need those dollars more than the state.

This is a great idea. The change should never have been made in the first place. The Legislature still needs to find a way to protect and assist those who are truly needy, but the rest of us don’t need the extra $$$.

How can you in good conscience give the manufacturing industry a $60 million tax break and increase the sales tax on food for 3 million Utahns?

I wish this didn’t have to happen, but lawmakers can’t seem to agree on the most reasonable way to stabilize tax revenue which would be to reduce the income tax deductions for dependents.

This will disproportionately impact low-income families. It will cripple food budgets and drive more people to use the already overtaxed (pun intended) food pantries in the state.

If the funds go to education or another priority, it’s a great idea.

Sales tax on food may be the cruelest penalty on our neighbors who can least afford. But Utah legislators have shown time & time again they don’t care much for the poor among us, so they’ll probably put the tax back on food.

As long as the food tax is offset with other support for poorer Utahns who benefit from the current situation, this is a good idea. The food tax is a stable and consistent mechanism for funding essential government services.

Raise food tax but not the minimum wage? What are you trying to do to the working people of Utah? Not everything is about money in YOUR pocket. Where is your humanity?

Not just no, but hell no. While I get the “broaden the base and lower the rate” mentality, taxing food is taxing life itself and is immoral. We should be seeking ways to eliminate the tax on food, not bring it back. Giving a corporate tax break as the trade-off for hitting the middle class with a significant tax increase is especially offensive. Revenue neutral for the state doesn’t mean revenue neutral for families already struggling to make ends meet.

This is a horrendous idea! Not only is this regressive and will hurt those among us who suffer the most, but it’s just idiotic to think that a tax increase is going to help long term. Before considering tax increases why doesn’t the legislature provide serious oversight of executive agency budgets rather than the chummy, wink wink, nudge nudge budgeting process that I’ve seen every year on the Hill. I’ll tell you why, because it’s easier to raise the taxes on the public at large, or massive segments of the public, rather than to look friends and associates in the eye and tell them “sorry, we’ve gotta cut your budget because this is not an efficient use of taxpayer dollars.” Until legislators take seriously their role of oversight, I will always be opposed to their tax increase proposals.

While we need to raise a tax to better fund schools, this is not the one to raise. It is regressive and will hurt poor families the most. Let’s reduce income tax exemptions and look at higher property tax rates.

Besides being an extremely regressive tax, this will lead to lower levels of funding in the future unless we have more poor people as a percentage of the population. Building the future of the state budget in the hope that we grow the number of poor people is either cynical or stupid depending on what you think of the proponents of this idea. If we need more consistent revenue during recessions, then we should figure out a better way to do that.

Raising sales tax on food while giving tax breaks to corporations is maddening. Also maddening is the waste of taxpayer money spent on coal ports, federal lawsuits/land grabs, and talk of expanding and purchasing state park land. What the hell is wrong with you legislators?

In general, consumption taxes are a good idea. But imposing taxes on bare necessities is politically problematic. It always involves efforts to mitigate the damage to the very poor, resulting in arbitrary decisions and energy expended in gaming the system. In this case, I say the game isn’t worth the candle. Better would be a straight, flat consumption tax: How much did you make? How much did you save/invest? Send us x% of the difference. With a reasonable zero bracket amount, the political problems of a sales tax disappear.

Utah is this sad place where anything that favors low-income people or creates more fairness in taxes is temporary. You can always count on Republicans to reverse course and undo these reforms when they eventually need some money. Why not undo several dozen corporate loopholes they’ve inserted into the income tax code? Or reduce exemptions for people who have so many kids? Why take it out on poor people?

It is absolutely not okay to put in place a revenue generator that has a disproportionate impact on lower income residents. There are other places to make money. I’ll pay more.

It is the classic example of a regressive tax that harms the poor. This session the legislature has driven away OR, decided that we need to spend money on federalism training, and got rid of $60M in income from manufacturers, but are begging, hat in hand, for the state’s poor to pick up the tab. The stable income from the food tax may be great tax policy, but it isn’t family friendly and takes the humanity out of government. It may bring in a lot of dollars, but it makes no sense.

There are more socially and economically responsible ways to impose taxes to support education, e.g. on the wealthy who go with too much rather than increasing the burden on those just getting by or with very little. The trickle-down theory does not work if hands do not loosen the faucet to provide more for those further down the water hierarchy. Our children and families need to be fed, educated, and healthy. Making it more difficult to afford food will impact all of those areas critical to living good lives and transcending circumstances.

Huntsman should never have removed this tax in the first place. The State needs to broaden its tax base with reliable funding sources, and this is one of the most reliable. Losing a portion of the tax actually harmed many low-income people more than paying the tax did regarding cuts to social programs for them.

Of course, this would be a bad idea! Good grief, why don’t we just ask the poor to pay a tax on breathing while we are at it? Seriously, my household income this year will be around $105, 000 and I would be willing to have my taxes increased to prevent the food tax. Taxing food is hardest on those who can least afford it.

This disproportionately affects low-income families. I work at a Title 1 school where nearly 80% of our students are living below the poverty line. This tax means there will be less money in their families budgets for clothes, books, utilities, and rent. Please remember that if we want Utah to be successful as a whole, we can’t leave anyone behind.

I am 100% opposed to raising taxes on food and same on Utah legislators for trying to drag back regressive taxes like this. This punitive tax would affect the poorest in Utah and have a cascade effect on children and women. They would pay a disproportionate amount for food which in turn takes money away from housing and other essentials. According to the Center for American Progress, 2017 … 12.5% of Utah children under 18 live in poverty, along with 12.6% of WOMEN 18-64 years of age and 9.8% of men Education is great, and education funding is great however NOT AS A TAX ON FOOD. Need more $$$? Raise taxes on the rich. Need more $$$? Stop with the legal fight against public lands. Need more $$$? Reduce the corporate handouts and tax cuts.

What kind of society taxes food? A nasty society.

Are you kidding me?! This is a horrible idea. How dare you give tax breaks to corporations while adding sales tax to food. This will hurt low-income citizens so much. I am a single mom and a teacher. I barely make it. Please don’t add more money to my food bill.

No! As a Republican who works full time, I struggle to get by. I live paycheck to paycheck. I already do not have the food I feel is sufficient for my two children. Maybe the tax should be for folks earning over 100,000 dollars a year? I’m starting to realize I may be conservative but the Republican party doesn’t care about poor people and with Trump at the helm it is an elitist frat boy club. No more food taxes.

An increase in food taxes will mean it’s decision time…less nutrient dense food, certainly no organics. Gee. I’ve wanted to lose weight. My social security just won’t stretch further.

Broadening the tax base is code-talk for “tax the poor.”