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Watchdog group pushes back on opposition to state tax reform

SALT LAKE CITY – Recent polls show a majority of Utahns oppose the newly passed tax reform package.  However, one watchdog group believes repealing it would be a massive mistake, and doing so would hurt low-income families.

A new survey by Utah Policy shows roughly two-thirds of Utahns are against the bill.  It shows 34 percent are “strongly opposed” to measures found within it, and another 34 percent are “somewhat opposed” to them.

Gubernatorial candidates like Spencer Cox, Aimee Winder-Newton, Jeff Burningham and Zachary Moses have all announced their opposition to the tax reform.  Three of them signed a petition supporting a move to put a referendum about the bill on the ballot.

Officials with the Utah Taxpayers Association say they were surprised to see that.  Vice President Rusty Cannon says these candidates are advocating to repeal the biggest tax cut in state history.

“It’s complicated and there are a lot of moving parts.  So, I think that’s probably why there’s some misunderstanding,” he says.

He believes the biggest misunderstanding is tied to the increase in sales taxes on food and gas, and its potential impact on low-income families.  Cannon says the grocery tax credit would more than make up for any increase people would pay at the register.  Also, he refutes the idea that filling out the forms to get this credit would be overwhelming and confusing, as some critics have said.

Cannon says, “There would be a simple, one page or less form that they would have to sign.  Put your name, address, and information… here comes the check.  In Idaho, do you know big the form is to get the grocery tax credit?  It’s half a page.”

Along with the grocery tax credit, Cannon says critics are advocating to repeal a tax credit that would benefit seniors living off their social security benefits.

“They’re repealing an $18 million cut to senior citizens relying on social security.  That’s in the bill,” he says.

Plus, he says the bill corrects some of the problems that came from changes in the federal tax code.

“When you have a lot of dependents in a state like Utah, with the elimination of that dependent exemption, it basically raised everybody’s state taxes.  This bill fixes that,” Cannon says.

However, the man behind the referendum says the new tax code still hurts people as they’re buying food.  Fred Cox says the bill takes money out of people’s pockets as they buy gas, which gives them less money to buy food.  He also says giving a rebate check, after the fact, doesn’t solve the issue.