The Utah House of Representatives and Senate both voted Tuesday to repeal the tax reform package lawmakers passed during a special legislative session in December.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, sponsored the repeal bill, House Bill 185, after a citizen referendum that would let citizens vote on the tax reform in November received tens of thousands of signatures.
Hours before the Legislature met and voted on the repeal, the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office said the referendum had 117,154 verified signatures as of 7:40 a.m. Tuesday. Only 115,869 were needed for the referendum to go to the ballot.
The House voted 70-1 in favor of repealing the tax reform with the lone opposing vote coming from Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem. The bill then went to the Senate, where it passed 27-0.
“There were quite a lot of good things in that bill,” said Gibson, who was the House sponsor of the tax reform effort, “but suffice it to say there was a referendum process … and many people in the state of Utah do not agree with this tax restructuring bill.”
Gov. Gary Herbert announced on Twitter Tuesday evening that he had signed H.B. 185.
In an interview, Stratton said he voted against the repeal to “keep the discussion going” and because he didn’t want to undo the work that the Legislature had done.
“So we’ve repealed it and now we’re not going to do anything,” said Stratton. “We’re going to wait until the next legislative session to deal with it.”
Before the Senate vote, Sen. Luz Escamillla, D-Salt Lake City, asked what would happen to the referendum if the Legislature passed the repeal. Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he wasn’t sure but that it would be moot to put it on the ballot since there would be nothing to repeal.
Would all aspects of the tax reform bill be repealed, asked Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, including increases in per-child exemptions for families?
“Yes, it’s everything in there,” said Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who sponsored the tax reform bill.
Adams said he did not think the Legislature should consider another tax reform measure this session, adding they should wait until after November’s gubernatorial election to return to the issue.
“I think we need to wait to see who comes out of that race and revisit it when we have a new governor,” Adams told reporters after the Senate vote.
Former Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, who led the referendum effort, said he and others will continue to keep an eye on what the Legislature does regarding tax reform.
“We will still watch,” Cox said. “We don’t want this bill to come back in pieces during this session or next.”
Cox said he and others thought certain parts of the reform would be bad for Utahns, including increasing the sales tax on unprepared food and gas.
“I’m hoping that they listened and they will not go back to any of those items,” he said.
The biggest piece of feedback from the public, Hillyard said, was that “people did not want their taxes raised,” although the reform package would have decreased total taxes by about $160 million.
Gibson said that he appreciated and respected the referendum process but that there was a misconception that “this was a rushed bill done in the middle of the night,” which he said wasn’t the case.
The Legislature will have to restructure the state’s tax code at some point in the next few years, said Gibson.
“We will be back,” he said. “It is inevitable. We may even see some of it this session. But we will be back to continue to look at this issue.”