Herbert eager to tackle tax reform

Gary HerbertGov. Gary Herbert is pleased that lawmakers were able to significantly boost funding for public education and public safety this year, but he’s ready to move ahead with tax reform once lawmakers are done.

Herbert was a guest on the “Bernick and Schott on politics” podcast during the final day of the 2017 Utah Legislature. He says tax reform is vital if lawmakers are going to be able to fund education appropriately in the future.

“We know it’s not all about the money, but it’s some about the money,” says Herbert. “We need to make sure that we move forward and have appropriate funding for education, not just K-12, but K-16 and beyond.”

After a failed effort to address sales and income tax by lawmakers this session, Herbert says he’s looking forward to a collaborative effort to find a solution.

“We will take a lead role in making sure we come together and have discussions with all the stakeholders. There’s a lot of options out there. We need to decide what’s in the best interest of our economy and our taxpayers going forward. That’s going to be a significant work over the next 12 months.”

One big discussion Herbert hopes to have is finding a way to capture the sales taxes owed on online purchases. As has been reported many times over, Utah leaders estimate that costs the state $200 a year in lost revenue.

Herbert says he met with Congressional leaders from both parties when he visited Washington, and they told him they are committed to finding a solution to the online sales tax problem.

“They all said this is the year. We need to get this fixed this year. That would be encouraging because then we can either give everybody a tax cut, or we can direct that $200 million into education.”

And education funding will be a major topic over the next 12 months, especially since lawmakers are staring down the barrel of a citizen initiative to boost income taxes to provide $700 million more per year for public education. Backers hope to put that question on the 2018 ballot.

Herbert says capturing remote sales, coupled with tax reform should give a significant boost to schools.

“If you put that with what we can do with closing loopholes and the continued growth of our economy, and you come pretty close to the $700 million that everybody is saying we ought to have.”