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Rebate checks now part of tax reform package

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – It was already one of the most contentious proposals in the state, but lawmakers made some last-minute tweaks to the massive tax reform before it went up for discussion during the special session.

If the changes go forward, the state will have to open up its checkbook.

The biggest point of contention in the new tax proposal is over the increase in sales tax on groceries, however, another point critics make is that low-income families would have to wait to get the new credits they would be eligible for.  Senate President Stuart Adams says it’s too late for the changes to be made for the next tax deadline, but, there are other ways they can more quickly give those credits to people who need them.

“We’re actually working on a rebate for those that lost their dependent exemptions,” Adams says.

The state would use data from the previous tax year to determine who would get those rebates, and checks would be mailed out in February or March.  They’re also proposing to issue checks to people who would qualify for the grocery tax credit.

Adams says, “We’re calling it a ‘prebate’ that gives people the full credit for that $125 per individual, up to four individuals per family.  That check will go out July 1.”

These tweaks don’t go far enough for low-income family advocates.  The Alliance for a Better Utah emailed a statement, saying…

“When the checks and other shiny trinkets meant to distract are taken away, voters overwhelmingly oppose this tax reform proposal. Instead of scrambling to secure their re-elections next year, lawmakers should realize they shouldn’t be pushing this through tonight while still making changes only hours before. This is horrible policymaking and lawmakers should be absolutely ashamed they’re trying to pull off this sham.”

Gina Cornia with Utahns Against Hunger says there’s one basic concept lawmakers aren’t getting

“People aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.  They’re living day to day,” she says.

Cornia says there are many families and people on fixed incomes who won’t be able to afford any kind of increase in sales taxes.

“Other folks who may be living off of disability payments can not afford a 177% increase on their sales tax on food,” she says.