A referendum question on the Utah Legislature’s tax overhaul package will not appear on November’s ballot because lawmakers have already wiped out the unpopular reforms.
"The purpose of a referendum petition is to refer a law passed by the legislature to a vote of the people," Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "Since that law has been repealed, there is no longer an existing law to refer to the people, effectively making the referendum moot."
State lawmakers on Tuesday voted nearly unanimously to scrap the divisive tax proposal that they’d passed in a December special session. The dramatic reversal came the same day that state elections officials announced the referendum campaign targeting the reform bill had secured more than the 116,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
Fred Cox, a former state lawmaker who helped lead the citizen uprising against the bill, said he’s not surprised the ballot will not include a referendum question on a law that no longer exists.
"As long as the Legislature doesn't try to reconstruct the bill in pieces or in full, I don't know that we would be contesting that," he said in a Wednesday phone interview.
The unpopular tax bill would have hiked the state’s sales tax on food and imposed the sales tax on gas purchases and a variety of service transactions, including car towing and pet grooming. However, it would’ve delivered tax cut of $160 million through a combination of income tax cuts and credits.
Utah’s governor and legislative leaders announced they would repeal the tax reform package after Cox’s referendum group declared they’d collected more than 150,000 signatures.
A recent Salt Lake Tribune poll showed that 60% of Utahns opposed the tax reform plan, while 25% supported it. Just 15% didn’t have an opinion.