Miscommunication? Most Utah voters thought the failed tax reform hiked taxes, not cut them

Tax Cut 02

Talk about a colossal failure to get your political point across — Utah GOP legislators and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert were giving huge tax cuts to almost every Utahn across the board — but 88 percent of voters either didn’t believe them or didn’t care.

A new UtahPolicy.com/2News survey from Y2 Analytics finds that — even though the now-repealed tax cut would have provided a $160 million tax cut overall to individuals — 60 percent of voters say it would have seen a tax increase, just the opposite of the truth.

Only 11 percent said the tax package would have been a tax cut, and 29 percent weren’t sure.

Add the “not sure” to those who said it would (wrongly) be a tax increase, and you get 88 percent of Utahns misunderstanding the basic point that Republican lawmakers and Herbert tried to get across.

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Is this a monumental miscommunication? Or did many voters just not believe the Republicans when they said a tax cut was coming?

Yes, we know from poll after poll that Utahns didn’t want the sales tax put back on food.

But the GOP leaders set up a rebate program for poorer Utahns whereby they would get $125 per person annually, up to four in a family, or $500, that would have more than offset any increase they would have paid in a slightly higher state sales tax on most groceries.

And with the various income tax cuts, low-to-moderate Utahns would have gotten much more tax relief than they would have seen in the higher grocery tax and a higher gasoline/user fee tax.

But the public wasn’t believing it, even if they understood it, the new poll finds.

Here are some of the amazing numbers:

60 percent of those over 65 years said the tax package would mean tax hikes for them, only 11 percent said they would get tax cuts, and a quarter of seniors said they didn’t know.

Yet the tax package would have removed the state income tax COMPLETELY on Social Security checks for low-to-middle income seniors — a total tax cut of $18 million each year.

64 percent of women said tax reform would have raised their taxes, 10 percent said they would get a tax cut, and 27 percent were not sure.

Yet the tax package would have REMOVED the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, for a specific tax cut of $1.5 million each year — beyond what men were getting in tax relief overall.

Many LDS families have more children than the average Utah family, and 55 percent of “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said they believe they would pay more in taxes under the Republicans’ reform. 20 percent said they would pay less, while a quarter said they were unsure.

Yet tax reform would have greatly expanded the Dependent Personal Exemption, increasing low-to-moderate-income families with children tax breaks from the current $565 to $2,500 per child each year — and even a single person would have been able to claim 1 exemption for themselves, which they can’t get now.

That would have been an overall tax cut of $132 million each year — and only 20 percent of “very active” LDS believed they would get a tax cut in reform.

And this goes beyond just those who specifically would get tax cuts:

“Strong” Republicans — the GOP legislators base, as well as Herbert’s: 60 percent said tax reform would see them pay more in taxes, 15 percent it meant a tax cut, and 25 percent said they were “not sure” what it would mean.

Political independents: 66 percent said they would see a tax hike — but they likely wouldn’t. 9 percent said they would see lower taxes, and a quarter didn’t know.

Same for “strong” Democrats: 63 percent said reform would mean overall higher taxes for them, 11 percent said they would get a tax cut, and 26 percent didn’t know.

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Did people with more education pay more attention to the complicated tax reform?

Not much.

18 percent of those who hold university graduate degrees — doctors, lawyers, accountants, PhDs — said they would get an overall tax cut, 55 percent said they would be paying more in tax, and 27 percent weren’t sure.

78 percent of those with just a high school diploma said they would not be getting a tax cut under reform, just 2 percent said they would see a tax cut (and many of them likely would have, since they don’t make as much money as rich folks with college degrees, and several of the tax breaks fazed out, with high income getting less or none).

A fifth of high school degree voters said they didn’t know if they would be getting a tax cut or not.

Other recent UtahPolicy.com polling by Y2 show the job approval ratings of Herbert and legislators have gone down significantly since last November. Those polls can be seen online at UtahPolicy.com or KUTV.com.

The Utah Political Trends survey was conducted January 16-30, 2020 by Y2 Analytics among 2,296 likely Utah voters with a margin of error +/- 2.1% points. You can read more about the polling methodology here.

UtahPolicy.com recently partnered with KUTV 2News and Y2 Analytics and will be providing polling results on a regular basis throughout the election season.