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Utahns Need More Time on Tax Reform

FROM THE DESERET NEWS

In an eye-opening exchange with men and women in poverty last week, I learned a great deal about the actual impact of the new tax reform plan being fast-tracked through the Utah Legislature. I sought their feedback on a proposed tax increase for unprepared food that will be coupled with a $125 annual grocery rebate for each family member. I didn’t get the response the bill’s proponents might have expected.

Utah leaders have a great track record of collaborating to find meaningful solutions to public policy challenges. Despite that record, and the tax reform task force’s commendable work holding open forums throughout the state, Utahns aren’t ready to go along with the reforms. They are still hungry for more transparency, listening and discussion. They are also hungry for leaders to cut any unnecessary spending.

It’s no secret that HB441 was mishandled. You simply cannot draft a complex tax reform plan behind closed doors, debut it in the last two weeks of the session and expect buy-in from the public. The process was flawed. Utahns lost trust.

The path to regain the public trust and get tax reform back on the rails is through a combination of bold leadership, genuine listening and deliberate collaboration.

First, leadership is key. The public needs more information about the challenges in our current tax system. The current process skipped this piece, assuming everyone understood the why and were ready to talk about the how. For many voters, their first exposure to the discussion was the debate over taxing services. Fully and accurately diagnosing the problem in a way that gains public buy-in is an important role for Utah’s governor and state Legislature.