‘The year of the tax cut’: Utah legislative leaders to make tax policy a priority in 2022

Utah Republicans said they will also focus on water issues, education and infrastructure during the general legislative session, which starts on Jan. 18.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, conducts business at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 5, 2021, during the final day of the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session.

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams is calling 2022 “the year of the tax cut,” while state lawmakers set aside nearly $160 million in reductions.

“One of the challenges in Utah is that we use income tax to fund education and we’re going to continue to fund education,” said Adams, who made his remarks on Wednesday at the annual Utah Taxpayers Legislative Outlook Conference in Salt Lake City. “It’s going to continue to happen. We just have to find other ways to do it.”

The Layton Republican said the Senate is prioritizing the state’s water issues, such as the Bear River project, infrastructure and education during the upcoming general session.

Adams said rising inflation and the “workforce crisis” are trending problems facing the state, blaming both issues on federal spending. U.S. inflation reached 7% in December – a level not seen since 1982, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Wednesday.

“We, as a state, cannot let inflation keep going,” Adams told the crowd Wednesday. “In Utah, we believe in industry. We believe in hard work.”

“When we pay people to stay at home, it (not) only affects their productivity, but it affects their mental health,” he said, referring to unemployment aid authorized by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need to get people back to work.”

As Utah’s population continues to grow, Adams said it will be vital to double-track the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner to create innovative infrastructure, like a faster commuter rail.

“We need to be able to move people faster, more efficient in Utah, and we need to actually look beyond some of the priorities we have today and look beyond the next couple of years because we’re going to grow,” the senate president said.

In order to fund the rail project, House Speaker Brad Wilson said lawmakers are proposing using a portion of the state’s one-time revenue to pay for the double-tracking of the front runner with cash instead of bonds.

“This is going to save taxpayers in the state of Utah $30 million over the next decade and a half,” he said.

Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in order to make life more affordable for Utahns, lawmakers need to ensure tax policies in the state allow people to keep more of their money.

“We all feel the state of Utah feeling less affordable and more expensive to live in,” Wilson said, and that policymakers could help make the problem better.

Wilson said House priorities include preserving the Great Salt Lake, education innovation and creating economic development incentives for high-demand industries.

“The optimum policy for a state facing growth like ours is really tricky. We’ve got to find the balance between a low-tax environment that fosters innovation and investment. But also, we’ve got to have sufficient tax revenue to the state of Utah so that we can make prudent forward-looking investments in the future generations that are depending on us today to make the decisions for them tomorrow,” he said.

During the conference, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson reiterated that the Cox administration’s 2022 budget proposal includes tax relief for low-income families in the form of a “grocery tax credit.”

Under the budget proposal, a single parent earning $20,000 a year and raising two children would qualify to receive a grocery tax credit of $240. A family of eight with a household income of $100,000 would potentially be eligible for a $400 credit.

This year, Utah lawmakers are proposing various tax-related legislation, including a bill by state Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, that would slash the income tax rate from 4.95% to 4.6%.