A couple of weeks ago, my town was chock-full of volunteers in orange shirts on street corners and round-abouts holding signs for their organizations and enthusiastically waving to honking passersby. My social media feed was a non-stop stream of photos of those same people jumping and leaping, with arms-flailed-feet-flying exuberance.
All of this waving and jumping was meant to encourage community members to donate to Live PC Give PC, the Park City Community Foundation’s annual day of giving. These efforts were not in vain. The foundation raised more than $2.4 million for area nonprofits.
There’s a local saying that, “If you’re lucky enough to live in Park City, you’re lucky enough.” I would propose that this sentiment only applies to a certain demographic in our community.
The number of charities and the demand for their services, and this urgent call for money to support local schools, early childhood education and childcare, the food pantry and many other social assistance programs clearly demonstrates that not everyone in our community is “lucky enough.”
As our Republican-dominated state Legislature faces the unenviable task of state tax reform in a time of falling sales tax revenues, proposals are circulating that would cut the income tax, thereby eliminating an estimated $400 million from education funding, as well as increase grocery taxes to triple the current rate.
Utah already ranks last in the nation in per-pupil spending, and last for the portion of education funding that goes to teachers. According to the national non-profit Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organizations, Utah has nearly 375,000 citizens who struggle with hunger. These proposed tax policies would continue to decimate education funding, and exacerbate food insecurity among the most vulnerable in our communities.
No amount of leaping on street corners will enable the food pantry to cover all of the gaps, especially if this tax policy is enacted.
The Christian Center currently collects and distributes nearly a million pounds of food every year to residents of Summit and Wasatch counties that are experiencing food insecurity. Statewide, the food hardship rate is significantly higher for households with children. Tripling the sales tax on food will only exacerbate this problem and create more hungry children in Utah. Philanthropy is no substitute for sound tax policy.
In addition to the devastating cuts to education funding and the unconscionable increase to grocery taxes, the proposals create tax loopholes and tax cuts for big businesses and lobbyists. I haven’t seen any big business leaders flashing their spirit fingers and showing off their herkies in order to help their bottom line — but businesses in Utah benefit from our well-educated workforce, don’t they?
And yet schools and educators struggle to constantly overcome the funding obstacles erected by the Legislature. The Republicans in the Legislature have their tax priorities backwards: Utah needs tax policies that support working families and strong education, not bestow favorable treatment on corporations at the expense of working families.
A recent poll published by UtahPolicy.com showed that a plurality of Utah voters disapprove of the job that the Utah Legislature is doing. The recent approach to tax reform can’t be doing anything to improve their rating.
Utahns value strong education and healthy families, no jumping required.
Meredith M. Reed, Park City, is county chair for the Summit County Democrats, a Realtor, mother to four school-aged children and wife of an active-duty service member.