2/3 of Utahns oppose reinstating sales tax on food, but they’re unsure about imposing sales taxes on services

Utah Capitol 31

Republicans in the Utah Legislature and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert have quite a sales job ahead of them if they want most Utahns to support their tax reform effort, especially extending the sales tax to services, a new UtahPolicy.com poll finds.

And as it stands, two-thirds of Utahns don’t want the state sales tax put back on unprepared food, one of the ideas the Tax Reform Task Force is considering, the new Utah Political Trends survey conducted by Y2 Analytics shows.

The poll finds:

66 percent of voters say they “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose putting the sales tax back on food, even if there is some kind of tax offset allowing low-income folks not to be harmed by the change.

Only 15 percent support re-imposing the food tax.

While 19 percent said they neither favor nor oppose such a tax shift.

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If the GOP majority in the state House and Senate pick that option – and some Republican senators have favored it – then most folks will be against it.

Aside from the food tax, Utahns are more favorable to at least consider radically changing the state tax system, with Republicans and Hebert say is out of whack and needs an overhaul.

33 percent (one third) either “strongly” or “somewhat” favor changing the tax system by extending the sales tax to some currently-not taxed services.

39 percent are opposed to such changes.

And 27 percent said they neither oppose nor favor changing the state tax system.

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The Tax Reform Task Force has finished its public hearings around the state and now will consider what to recommend in the way of tax changes to the Legislature and governor.

There are ten members of the task force, five each from the House and Senate, with Democrats getting one seat in each house. Herbert has a few non-voting task force from his administration.

House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, co-chair of the task force, told UtahPolicy Tuesday that he still hopes the task force can finish its work and make the recommendations in time for a fall special legislative session.

That would keep the controversial issue out of the 2020 general session and remove it a bit from the 2020 election season.

Herbert and GOP lawmakers will make these tax-change decisions. But they are not getting a lot of guidance from Republicans overall.

Y2 finds that among “strong” Republicans, 36 percent favor sales tax changes now, 25 percent don’t care, and 38 percent oppose such changes.

The “not so strong” Republicans feel just about the same, Y2 finds.

“Strong” Democrats want changes now since it could mean, down the road, more money for education and other state programs, like social networks for poorer Utahns.

Political independents are less sure, with half saying they don’t favor the tax changes now.

No partisan group likes the idea of putting the sales tax back on food:

== “Strong” Republicans are against that, 66-percent-to-16-percent, with 18 percent undecided.

== “Strong” Democrats are against it, 56-26 percent, with 18 percent undecided.

== “Strong” conservatives are against putting the food tax back on, 75-12 percent, with 13 percent undecided.

The poll shows that Herbert and legislative Republicans put the sales tax back on food at the peril of going against their political base.