Will Utahns see some kind of state income tax cut this general session?
Well, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, wants one. But he’s also hedging his bets.
As you may recall, when legislative Republicans and GOP Gov. Gary Herbert repealed tax reform the second day of this general session, gone along with it was a $160 million income tax cut, coming in various forms -- increasing the child exemption, no tax on most Social Security payments and more.
As it stands, those tax cuts won’t come.
But there is now $160 million in unallocated ongoing income tax -- what is to become of that.
Wilson told reporters Wednesday morning that he’s been in favor of tax cuts for some time -- thus his advocacy of the huge tax reform package that would have carried $160 million in tax relief this year.
But he’s not sure if any of it will come this year.
Of course, Wilson could just be teasing us. Showing us a tax cut card, then slipping it back in his hip pocket.
And, candidly, Wilson and other House Republicans are feeling a little bit beat up and unappreciated.
Usually, it is a Utah governor who takes on tough issues, tries to be forward-thinking.
But tax reform was pushed by GOP legislators, especially House Republican leaders -- two of whom sat on the much-over-worked Tax Reform Task Force over nine months in 2019. (There were no Senate GOP leaders on the task force, but were rank-and-file senators.)
So House leaders are especially exposed if you will, this session.
Still, there is $160 million out there. And all 75 House members are up for election this year, only half of the Senate faces voters.
So it would make sense that House Republicans -- feeling abused over tax reform, yes -- would still like to salve their re-elections with what would be the second-largest tax cut in the state’s history.
Wilson said that rather than give a small tax cuts in each of the areas where the tax reform package gave large tax cuts -- in other words, spread out the $160 million broadly -- it may be wiser tax policy to put much, or all, of the money into just one or two specific tax cut areas -- child exemption, Social Security, veteran benefits and so on.
But that could displease certain segments of the voting public -- seniors, for example if they are left without tax relief.
“We will see a tax cut,” Wilson promised. “The timing is the question. Will we see it this session? We spent nine months (on tax reform that resulted in the $160 million state income tax cut spread over various areas),” he said.
Waiting nine days more in the session is not too much to ask.
And think of this: Way back in 1988, when there was a tax revolt against then-GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter and the GOP-controlled Legislature, Bangerter waited until just before his November re-election -- and the lawmakers’ -- to call a special legislative session, where taxes imposed earlier were cut.
Politically speaking, it may be wiser for Wilson et al. to not give a tax cut now, but wait until this summer or fall to come into session and give a tax cut.
Voters more likely to remember, and appreciate it, then.