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Political opponents come together to support referendum against state’s tax reform package

FILE: Jeff Burningham, left, and Aimee Winder-Newton, right, adding their names to the referendum petition. Newton, one of the GOP candidates for governor, named her running mate Tuesday. (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Some high profile names are joining the effort pushing back on the state’s newly passed tax reform package.  Three different candidates for governor all officially added their names to the list.

Candidate Aimee Winder-Newton says she used to go from city to city, touting the benefits of the reform package.   She says she used to believe the grocery tax credit would come out to far more than what low-income families would pay in additional sales taxes.  However, she was the one being convinced, otherwise.

Winder-Newton says, “I thought they would agree with what legislators were proposing.  I was wrong.”

She says the families explained how an additional $18 per month on food would hurt them, and that figuring out how to fill out another government form would be tedious and overwhelming for them.

Winder-Newton was joined by her political opponents, Jeff Burningham and Zachary Moses, as they signed the referendum proposed by former lawmaker Fred Cox.  Burningham says the state doesn’t have a revenue problem, requiring them to raise sales taxes.  He believes the state has a spending problem.

“Our state government has grown over 30 percent in the past five years.  Has your income grown over 30 percent?  Do you feel 30 percent better served?” he asks.

Other groups like the Utah Tax Reform Coalition, the United Women’s Forum and Utah Legislative Watch were on hand to support the referendum.  Brett Hastings with ULW says the reform package was passed with underhanded tactics, and he claims the task force that was created to hear people’s concerns didn’t do what their group had hoped.

Hastings says, “It was very clear this was not a listening tour, but it was a propaganda campaign funded by taxpayer dollars to try and convince Utahns we had some kind of crisis.”

He also accuses lawmakers of scaring people into believing major changes have to be made to fill the state’s general fund.  He believes lawmakers frequently move money out of that fund, then complain about how little is in it.

“The projections that were presented by the task force are bad projections.  They’re wrong,” Hastings says.

The bill would also add taxes on wholesale gas prices, and analysts predict that would add at least ten cents a gallon.

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