Jeff Burningham: Here are my top tax priorities when I’m elected governor

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah's individual income tax return form.

After two unsuccessful attempts at tax reform, Gov. Gary Herbert issued this challenge:

“I think it’s an opportunity for those running for governor who have been critical of this process, it’s time for them to step up and let the public know what are [their] ideas on tax reform?”

As a successful entrepreneur, job creator and innovator, I’m glad you asked. I have six points central to a Burningham governorship.

First, it’s time to do what should’ve been done two years ago: Fix the state income tax increase on Utah families caused by federal tax reform. By not acting, the Legislature raised state income taxes on some large families by as much as 45%. As governor, my first act will be to ask the Legislature to send me a bill to fix the dependent exemption.

Second, we will address spending with more than just lip service. The people of Utah have ensured we don’t have a revenue problem in this state, but we do have a spending problem. Discretionary spending has grown by more than 30% over the past five years. How many Utahns have seen a 30% increase in their income? As governor, I’ll do a top-to-bottom review of government and eliminate waste. Before we modernize the tax code, we need to modernize our spending.

Third, a Burningham governorship will modernize and simplify our income tax system. Our income tax returns seem to get more complicated every year. Our tax booklets will no longer be hundreds of pages.

Fourth, we will be transparent. Virtually all of the tax reform bill was negotiated behind closed doors. There were no public hearings on the actual bill that passed. Good-intentioned legislators did not even have time to read the bill before voting. A Burningham governorship will end such practices.

I guarantee that a Burningham governorship will not play games with numbers to manufacture a crisis like the reformers did. Those leading this tax reform effort claimed Utah is in a crisis. They told us that sales tax revenues aren’t keeping up and, without immediate action, we wouldn’t be able to fund essential government programs.

That’s not what the numbers show.

Sales tax revenues are up 6.7% in the latest report. In fact, in the past 10 years, sales tax has outpaced population growth and inflation combined.

We will not look at reforming sales tax until we have more data on online sales. Legislation passed in 2018 and 2019 may result in an additional $250 million-plus in ongoing revenue over the coming years. These numbers, and the fact that our economy’s shift from goods to services has stabilized, show Utah already has a solid sales tax base.

Fifth, education must be our top priority. The greatest risk factor to Utah’s future is K-12 education.

We need to ensure we are funding education growth at an appropriate level. And during years where we collect more income tax than we need, I will fight for returning some of that money to Utahns through a one-time universal tax credit.

Sixth, we need a smart plan for transportation funding. Utah is growing and will continue to grow. If we want our children to enjoy the same quality of life we do, we have to have a plan for funding transportation infrastructure.

In the next ten years, the number of electric cars on our roads will increase significantly. The gasoline tax will not be able to fund our infrastructure forever.

As governor, I’ll take the time to craft a solution that makes sense for all Utahns. Good tax policy takes time.

Spending cuts, simplicity, transparency, making education a priority, getting ahead of transportation needs and taking time to get it right. These are the ideas I will champion as governor.

Jeff Burningham

Jeff Burningham is a Republican candidate for governor of Utah.