Poll: 8 in 10 Utah Republicans want the Legislature to cut taxes

Utah Capitol 40

As the Utah Legislature’s GOP House and Senate caucuses debate whether to give a tax cut this year, a new Y2 Analytics poll finds that 80 percent of Republican voters want such tax relief.

The majority party lawmakers must soon decide whether to give some of the $921 million in tax surpluses back to those who paid it. The Legislature adjourns at midnight a week from Thursday.

The new survey, obtained by UtahPolicy.com, finds:

50 percent of registered Republicans “strongly” favor a tax cut this year, while 30 percent “somewhat” favor the cut — or a total of 80 percent. 7 percent don’t know.

More than two-thirds of the House and Senate are Republicans, many coming from heavily Republican districts.

52 percent of Democrats either “strongly” or “somewhat” favor a tax cut this session. 38 percent don’t want a tax cut, while 10 percent don’t know.

70 percent of political independents, who don’t belong to either party, want a tax cut now, 22 percent don’t want one, and 7 percent don’t know.

All of the 75 House members face re-election this year if they decide to run again; while half of the 29-member Senate are up.

In addition, most of the GOP lawmakers running for re-election will face many “strong conservative” delegates in either their county or state Utah Republican Convention, coming this spring.

And Y2 finds that 91 percent of “strong conservatives” in the state want tax cuts now.

Hard to face those GOP delegates who are voting on you if you had the chance to vote for a tax cut but didn’t give one.

Historically, it would be a no-brainer that the Republican Legislature would give a tax cut in an election year if members could afford to do so after setting next year’s budget. With the huge surplus looming, they could certainly afford to give one this year.

But some House and Senate Republicans have balked at a tax reduction, which likely would have to come in the income tax because most of the surplus comes from that source.

There’re several reasons for the hesitancy:

It’s unknown now how much the Coronavirus, which has yet to come to Utah but likely will, may affect next fiscal year’s state tax revenues.

Some GOP leaders worry the income and sales tax receipts could be severely harmed if the virus shuts down tourism, keeps people from work and normal shopping.

Tax reform, which failed this session, must be taken up by the newly-elected governor and the 2021 Legislature.

Lawmakers have put aside $80 million for tax relief accompanying tax reform — although with the large surpluses more likely could be given.

Should tax cuts be put off until next year, when what tax reform will look like is known?

There was a $160 million tax cut that came with the failed tax reform of 2019-2020. Some GOP legislators are still smarting over the voters’ rebuke, and are not eager to quickly turn around and give tax relief to the very people who worked so hard against tax reform/tax cuts — rubbing lawmakers’ noses in the political failure.

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not running for re-election this year, didn’t work hard in supporting tax reform, and isn’t now strongly advocating for tax cuts.

So his GOP legislative colleagues don’t see pressure from his office to give tax cuts now.

However, the new poll results do show that Utahns in general (74 percent), and Republicans especially, want the Legislature to give tax cuts now.

Y2 polled 1,049 registered voters between Feb. 26 to March 2, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.03 percent.