Utah Foundation releases the second in a series of Utah Priorities Project briefs looking at Utah voters’ top concerns. State Taxes and Government Spending ranked second in July. Concern is driven in part by the economic crisis and a recent attempt at major tax reform.
Utah voters have often expressed enthusiasm for lower taxes. From one perspective, they seem to be getting them, as Utahns’ taxes as a share of their income has seen a steep slide, from 6th in the nation in 2004 to 31st in 2016. But when evaluated along with government services as part of the Priorities Project survey, voter opinions become more nuanced. Most Utahns would not want lower taxes if it meant reduced or lower-quality government services. In fact, nearly 75% of voters reported that they would be willing to pay more taxes for better schools, air quality or roads. If the state had to raise taxes, most would prefer an increase in sales taxes over other taxes. However, almost half of Utahns would be willing to pay more taxes overall to ensure that the sales tax on food remains low.
“Some things never change,” Utah Foundation President Peter Reichard said. “A century ago, Utah Gov. Bamberger observed that ‘all over the civilized world the question of taxation is the big problem.’ The Utahns of today confirm that’s still the case.”