by Bill Tibbitts, Deputy Executive Director, Crossroads Urban Center
On Friday, January 28, 2022, the Utah Senate passed a bill (SB 59) cutting the income tax by an estimated $160 million per year on a 22-5 vote. Meanwhile, two bills that would eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on food, HB 165 and HB 203, are stuck in the House Rules Committe. Some legislators have implied that it is not possible to pass a bill eliminating the sales tax on food while passing a large income tax cut.
This is not true. In 2018 the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by former Rep. Tim Quinn (HB 148) that eliminated the sales tax on food in Utah and had a fiscal note of zero dollars. There are a few ways that the fiscal note on the current bills eliminating the sales tax on food could be cut by fifty percent or more.
The 2018 bill that passed in the House was revenue neutral because it raised the tax on non-food items from 4.70 percent to 4.92 percent. If the math has not changed too much in the past four years, then this suggests that the fiscal note for this year's HB 165 could be reduced from $159.1 million to about $79.55 million if the sales tax on non-food items were increased from the current rate of 4.70 percent to 4.81 percent.
Another way to reduce the fiscal note on HB 165 or HB 203 would be to remove candy, soda, bottled water, and nutritional supplements from the statutory definition of "food" used for tax purposes. HB 165 has a fiscal note that is about $11 million lower than HB 203 because it removes candy from the statutory definition of food. Removing soda, bottled water and nutritional supplements from the food category for tax purposes should get the fiscal not of either bill under $100 million.
In short, there are ways to craft a bill that eliminates the sales tax on necessities like bread, milk, fruits and vegetables while cutting total sales tax revenue by $50 million or less.
Let's make 2022 be the year in which Utah state government stops taxing food!
Ask House Leadership to eliminate the sales tax on food this year
If you agree that Utah needs to stop taxing basic necessities like bread, milk, fruits and vegetable, reach out to the leaders of the Utah House of Representatives and let them know:
- Speaker of the House: Representation Brad Wilson, email@example.com (801) 538-1029
- House Majority Leader: Representative Mike Schultz, firstname.lastname@example.org 801-859-7713
- Majority Whip: Representative Jefferson Moss, email@example.com 385-250-6738
- Minority Leader: Representative Brian King, firstname.lastname@example.org 801-560-0769
- Minority Whip: Representative Karen Kwan, email@example.com 385-249-0683