GOP Gov. Gary Herbert wants legislators to remove the sales tax earmark now in the state’s Transportation Fund, but a new UtahPolicy poll finds Utahns are mixed on that proposal.
Pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that 47 percent of Utahns want the sales tax earmark removed, 42 percent don’t, and 11 percent don’t know.
A decade ago the Legislature was looking for new road money as a massive I-15 rebuilding and other road projects needed billions of dollars.
But those projects are now complete, for the most part, and the state’s General Fund – fed by the sales tax – is falling short of projections.
Herbert and some education/Human Services advocates want that sales tax back in the General Fund – allowing more money for those programs.
In the 2015 Legislature Herbert asked for all of the earmarks repealed. Lawmakers refused.
Now the governor is asking for a step-down plan – about $10 million to come off of the earmark next fiscal year, the monies moved over to the General Fund.
To get political capital, Herbert would spend that money on at-risk children – which is getting support across the board these days.
Then Herbert wants $10 million more in each of the next four years – or all the $50 million off of the earmark and back in the General Fund by fiscal 2021.
This is, of course, inside baseball..
And Utahns answering the Jones survey may not be aware of all the ins and outs.
For example, Utah Democrats, by and large, don’t trust the Republican-controlled Legislature – so may not want to provide more money each year for the majority Republicans to spend as they wish from the General Fund.
Likewise, Democrats want more money for Human Service and education programs – which Herbert’s plan would provide.
Yet Jones finds that Democrats oppose letting the Legislature have more flexibility in budget-setting by removing the earmarks.
Only a third of Democrats want the earmarks removed, 53 percent oppose.
Republicans generally trust their GOP-controlled Legislature, and 53 percent like removing the earmarks, 38 percent oppose.
Political independents are split, 45 percent favor, 45 percent oppose.
Jones polled 845 adults from Jan. 6-13, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.37 percent.