Who Scored High on the Utah Taxpayer’s Association Legislative Scorecard?

Utah State Capitol 08Who are the best friends of Utah taxpayers in the Legislature?

Who are the worst?

The Utah Taxpayers Association is out with its 2016 general session rankings, and there are some surprises in this year’s listings.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, did poorly – relatively speaking – in this year’s rankings.

But that’s because he missed so many votes on bills the association listed as critical measures.

Niederhauser ties in last place out of 29 senators with Sen. Steve. Urquhart, R-St. George.

Urquhart also missed a number of votes important to the association. He is not running for re-election.

Senate Democrats actually didn’t do badly in the taxpayer rankings, most of the five finishing in the upper part of the rankings.

As noted by UTA rankers, the Senate Democrats did well because of three bills the association opposed or favored: “Senate Democrat votes were favorable to taxpayers on SB 17, relating to severance tax valuation; SB 251, relating to the creation of a more unified water infrastructure plan to address future needs, and HB 61, which expands single sales factor to high-tech manufacturing.”

The best senators on tax matters this past session are Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan. He is being challenged inside the GOP by Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan.

And Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, also got a 100 ranking from the Association – which he actually runs.

In the House, noted conservative Reps. Mel Brown, R-Coalville; Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi; and Mike Noel, R-Kanab; also didn’t do well.

Seven House Democrats were listed as the worst in their anti-tax votes this session.

But those three House Republicans were worse than the five other Democratic representatives.

Noel also missed many votes because he is the House Rules Committee chairman, and so was off the floor often.

Anderegg is running for a vacant Senate seat this year and is basically the winner; he has no Democratic opponent and only an Independent American against him in the final election.

Brown has a June 28 GOP primary with fellow Republican Logan Wilde.

Noel has Democrat Ty Markham against him in the final, but it is a very Republican district.

Stephenson in his private work life is actually the long-time president of the Taxpayers Association.

This year Stephenson got a 100 percent approval ranking from his own group. But that has not always been the case in years past – when on occasion Stephenson has favored a tax reform bill or two that the association has opposed.

Stephenson is a registered lobbyist, but says he doesn’t lobby his legislative colleagues, but files as a lobbyist because he does lobby the executive branch of state government.

Association vice president Billy Hesterman lobbies the Legislature on behalf of the association.

This coming Monday is the association’s annual Utah Taxes Now Conference at the Grand America Hotel.

The three main party gubernatorial candidates – Gov. Gary Herbert, Republican Jonathan Johnson, and Democrat Mike Weinholtz will be the featured luncheon speakers.

Herbert and Johnson face each other in the June 28 June primary, with Herbert touting how well Utah is doing economically and Johnson criticizing him for not signing a pledge not to raise any state taxes.

Expect Johnson to plow into Herbert over the governor’s tax record. Herbert told the state GOP convention several weeks ago that Johnson is playing fast and lose with Herbert’s tax positions.

Yes, Herbert has favored some tax “reforms,” but he has also cut taxes several times and overall Utah’s state tax burden is moderate and fair.

Johnson says Herbert has actually raised taxes more than 30 times (albeit many were small tax adjustments). And since Herbert won’t sign a “no new taxes” pledge, expect some major taxes to go up if Herbert wins another four-year term.

Several leading business and education groups are pushing the Legislature and the governor to support a one percentage point increase in the state and corporate income taxes for public education.

Bills to do that have failed recently in the Legislature. But expect another push in the 2017 general session.