SALT LAKE CITY — Harmons Grocery is hoping to get over 100,000 signatures on a petition opposing the food tax increase before it is implemented statewide. The increase, from 1.75% to 4.85%, is part of a tax reform bill passed by the state legislature and signed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert. Company spokesman Bob Harmon says it is not the first time the statewide grocery chain has taken a stand on a controversial issue, insisting the request for signatures is not about the company bottom-line or profit but is about what the company believes is in the best interest of Utahns, especially those who are struggling.
“Food is essential and should be affordable. Increasing the tax on food hurts everyone, but especially those in our community that are already struggling. As a company, we do not believe groceries should be taxed. We feel strongly that Utahns should have an opportunity to vote on the issue before the tax goes into effect,” says Harmon.
The idea of collecting signatures inside store locations is not sitting well with the office of Governor Gary Herbert, who released a statement late Thursday saying they are disappointed in the grocer’s actions taken against what they call recently-enacted tax modernization passed in the best interest of store customers and employees.
“As a corporate citizen in the state, they have a right to engage in the political process, but they also have the responsibility to do so in a way that elevates the public’s discourse and is based on facts and not emotion,” according to an email sent to KSL News Radio from the governor’s office.
The signatures Harmons expects to gather will be added to more than 8,000 verified signatures that have already been collected for a tax reform revisions referendum, according to numbers released by the Utah Lt. Governor’s Office Thursday. That’s well shy of the nearly 116,000 signatures needed by Jan. 21. Harmon says he’d like to get a minimum of 115,689 signatures to make up the deficit.
115,869 signatures are needed, with at least 15 of Utah’s 29 counties having signatures exceeding the needed threshold in that county. So far, it has received at least one signature in 27 of 29 counties but hasn’t reached any of the state’s county thresholds, according to the data.
Anyone who signs on a petition for a referendum must have a valid state license and be an active registered voter in the state. Harmon says customers who qualify can visit any location during regular store operating hours. Volunteers from across the state will be staffed to assist people in signing petitions. The petition drive runs from Saturday, Jan. 11 through Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2020. The deadline to return petition signatures is 3 p.m. on January 21.
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