Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City) says the flat income tax, approved during the Jon Huntsman administration, has been an unmitigated disaster for Utah's public schools.
"It robbed $250 million from school children, and the money has poured into the pockets of the richest families in our state," says Dabakis. "Generationally, we've driven the school bus of education in Utah off a cliff."
Dabakis wants to reverse that trend by imposing an incremental tax hike on those at the upper end of incomes in Utah. His SB104 keeps families making less than $250,000 a year at the current 5% flat tax rate. Those who pull in $250,000 to $1 million per year would pay a 6% tax rate, plus an additional $12,500. Incomes over $1 million per year would pay a 7% rate, plus an additional $57,500.
Dabakis says that hike on those who have more would help reverse the negative funding trend for Utah's schools.
"I suspect if you asked the Huntsmans and Romneys if they were able to survive as Utahns before 2006 (when the flat tax went into effect), they would say they did. It's the giant sucking sound of money going from our schoolchildren to our 1-percenters. That cannot have been the intention of the flat tax, and it's time that we look that in the eye and repeal it."
Dabakis knows his proposal of an income tax hike may make his colleagues uncomfortable, especially when you consider that the state ended the most recent year with a $500 million budget surplus and that 2016 is an election year.
"I'm not optimistic that this will get anywhere this year, but it is the right thing to do."