Should the Utah Legislature cut taxes this year? We ask the GOP candidates for governor what they would do

2020 Election 01

Five of the six main GOP gubernatorial candidates this year tell that they want the Republican-controlled Legislature to cut taxes this session.

The only “no” vote on a tax cut now comes from former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who says Utahns have said time and again they would rather properly fund education than see an income tax cut.

With just under three weeks left in the session, the Republican majority caucuses in the House and Senate will start serious discussions this coming week on whether to give a tax cut, or a rebate, or keep some of the huge revenue surpluses in income taxes this election year.

UtahPolicy is told that while many Republicans want some kind of tax cut, it will be difficult to structure it until overall tax reform takes place in 2021 — with the high likelihood that one of the Republicans responding to our question will be sitting in the governor’s chair then.

Here are the main candidates (in alphabetical order) and how they responded to’s question:

Hi-tech entrepreneur Jeff Burningham: Yes, give a tax cut now.

“ We can and should do an even bigger tax cut” than the suggested $160 million. “The people of Utah have ensured we have a robust economy, which means more tax revenue to the state. Based on the latest tax revenue reports, there is enough room for a $250 million tax cut, while still funding a 5% increase in public education funding (WPU). As governor, I will continue fighting for taxpayers so they can keep more of their hard-earned money, and for innovative education that meets each child’s unique needs and prepares them for the jobs that exist and are coming.”

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox: Yes, cut taxes

“I always support returning more money to the taxpayer pocket. Under the Herbert-Cox Administration, the individual tax burden is the lowest it has been at any point over the last quarter-century. We have also saved more than two billion dollars since 2009 by improving efficiency in state government. However, any future tax reform should not occur until and unless a long term funding plan for public education is agreed to. We can significantly increase teacher salaries and improve the quality of public education while at the same time position the state for future fiscal certainty without raising taxes. This is my number one priority as governor.”

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes: Yes, a tax cut now.

“As a conservative, I support sustainable tax cuts whenever possible. 

“However, we should also explore utilizing surplus funds to implement ideas for reform. 

“We should also do a deep dive to explore ways to fund education without federal money and begin cutting the strings of federal encroachment in our education system.” 

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman: No tax cut now.

“Any tax cut under consideration this session would presumably be to income taxes and the people of Utah have made it clear they support investment in education. I would encourage legislators to use these income tax funds to implement creative incentives to address important issues like teacher retention. An isolated tax cut, disconnected from a broader tax reform package, misses the mark. The next governor will need to lead a collaborative effort to address our long-term revenue challenges in a way that ensures our state’s economic prosperity. My administration did that in 2007 and I am prepared to do it again.” 

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton: Yes, a tax cut now.

“Since the federal tax code changed two years ago and got rid of the exemptions, Utahns have been paying more in state income tax. The state needs to give that money back!

“It’s a falsehood to claim that was ever a tax cut. This refund would hold the taxpayer harmless for a windfall of taxes that the State of Utah should’ve never taken. Because of the surplus in the education fund, we should invest more in education, in addition to giving back the $160 million.

Former GOP state chairman and national committeeman Thomas Wright: Yes, give a tax cut now.

“I believe the legislature should cut taxes. In my own company (Wright operates a large real estate firm), we have to constantly create efficiencies so we can cut costs to remain competitive. It can be easy for government to continue to grow instead of taking that same approach. As governor, I will bring the best and brightest minds in Utah together to determine how we can consolidate services and what can be eliminated from the budget with minimal impact to allow Utahns to keep more of their money.”