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Gov. Herbert: It’s time for candidates to “step up” on tax reform

FILE — Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert talks with media after taking a ride Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in an F-35 cockpit demonstrator, at the University of Utah. He's suggesting candidates to replace him should speak up now about tax reform (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Just after announcing he and legislative leaders will fully repeal a tax reform package approved in special session, Gov. Gary Herbert called on the next governor – and those who hope to obtain the job – to take action.

In his monthly news conference on PBS Utah, Herbert called the tax reform repeal an “opportunity for those running for governor who, in fact, have been critical of this process.”

Time to step up

“It’s time for them to step up,” he told reporters, and argued candidates should “let the public know” what their ideas were to address tax reform.

Several candidates for governor from both Republican and Democratic parties endorsed the referendum to get tax reform on the 2020 Ballot.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, notably, would not endorse the referendum due to his role overseeing elections for the state, though he opposed raising the sales tax on food.

Where the candidates stand on tax reform

Four Republican candidates for governor appeared on KSL NewsRadio’s “Dave & Dujanovic” Thursday to discuss the issue of tax reform: Jeff Burningham, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder-Newton, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

Asked what he would do to address tax reform as governor, Burningham told Dave & Dujanovic he thinks Utah does not have a revenue problem, but that state government has a “spending problem.” As governor, he said he would call for a “top to bottom audit of the government.”

“The sales tax doesn’t fit who we are as Utahns,” he added.

Winder-Newton said she would look at the gas tax and transportation funding.

“Do you want transportation to be user-based or do you want it to be lumped into the budget?” she asked, arguing for a robust discussion on the issue.

Huntsman, who signed a bill to reduce the sales tax on food in 2006, said he would work with lawmakers to “improve our tax policy that broadens the base, lowers the rate” if elected.

Cox argued that lawmakers need to include leaders in education on tax reform discussions.

“We have to have the education community at the table having these discussions on board with us. What was missing with this piece was the education community,” he said. “That can’t happen.”


Former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, Greg Hughes, spoke on Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry to discuss tax reform in the wake of Gov. Herbert’s tax reform repeal.

“I think what you saw was that the people and the public were not brought along on this tax proposal,” he told Lonsberry. And he said he believes that Governor Herbert missed an opportunity to use his unique bully pulpit, as governor, to bring the people of Utah into the discussion.

“If I’m governor, that’s what you would have.”

Thomas Wright is also a gubernatorial candidate in Utah, and when Lee Lonsberry asked him to discuss tax reform in the wake of the repeal this week he said the biggest problem was timing.

“If I had been governor, I would have said to the legislature, ‘let’s bring a bill forward before we call the special session,” Wright said. “If the final bill had been presented to the public before the special session was called, a lot of these concerns would have been heard.”

Republican Jason Christensen, who is also a gubernatorial candidate in Utah, did not comment specifically on the recent repeal. But in a YouTube video, Christensen says he’d get rid of income and property tax and institute a state lottery to fund education.

Election Day is Nov. 3, 2020.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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