Gov. Herbert vetoes proposed tax changes in time of economic uncertainty

Gov. Gary Herbert has exercised his veto power to block a handful of bills that would change tax policy, explaining that it would be imprudent to make these adjustments during a time of economic unrest.

One of the bills would’ve extended a tax credit for clean heavy-duty vehicles, while another would’ve established tax credits for commercial energy systems. But rather than making piecemeal changes to the state’s tax code, state leaders should pursue more comprehensive reform efforts, Herbert wrote in a letter explaining his decision.

Herbert also vetoed a bill that, he said, would have negative tax implications and take a worrisome approach to funding services for students with special needs.

“I am concerned that the narrative surrounding this bill was about removing students with special needs out of the public education system, rather than supporting our students within their community schools,” Herbert wrote. “While it is helpful to provide options for students with special needs, special education federal law and best practice require that children with special needs be served whenever possible in an inclusive environment, alongside their typically developing peers.”

The libertarian Libertas Institute swiftly expressed its disapproval of Herbert’s decision to reject a measure it said would’ve benefitted children with special needs.

“It’s sad that Utah couldn’t join the many other states that have provided flexibility and support for families with special needs children,” Michael Melendez, the institute’s director of policy, said in a prepared statement.

Hebert vetoed two more bills — one that would’ve rolled back a sales tax exemption for purchases of locomotive fuel and created a fund for constructing or renovating railroad crossings and another that would’ve directed officials to install “consistent, attractive” signs, fences and barriers along the Jordan River.

The governor wrote that the proposed signs would be nice but should not be a state priority right now.

“In the current environment, this kind of expenditure is not appropriate,” he wrote.

State officials have predicted dire economic repercussions from the coronavirus pandemic, which has already led businesses across the state to close and forced a record number of Utans to file for unemployment benefits. Herbert on Wednesday made clear that lawmakers will soon have to meet in a special session to make adjustments in light of the public health crisis.

Wednesday was Herbert’s final day to consider the roughly 500 bills passed by the Utah Legislature during the 2020 session. He added his signature to nine more bills on Wednesday and allowed one — which would require a warning label for all pornography in the state — to pass into law without his endorsement.