When our legislators meet in special session later this summer to consider changes in Utah taxes, I hope they don’t cut the income tax rate. Utah adopted the income tax in 1931 to be a stable major funding source for public education. To my knowledge Utah has never had an excess of income tax revenue to support public schools beyond the bare minimum.
This year, with the huge tax surplus, enough money was given to public education for a 4% increase of the WPU, student enrollment growth was fully funded, and there were several other needed special programs funded. But the surplus was apparently not enough to restore public education funding lost over the last 20 years because of the 1996 constitutional change allowing higher education to share income tax revenue, and the move to a single rate income tax in 2008.
Because the income tax is apparently not providing enough revenue to properly fund public education, several of our local school districts are now planning to increase property taxes to give teachers needed salary increases.
When our legislators meet I hope they remember that before the tax change in 1996, while Utah was ranked at the bottom in the nation in per-pupil funding, at least we were ranked in the top ten states in effort to fund public education (amount of money spent for public education per $1000 of income), and that now Utah is ranked about 34th in effort to fund public education.
So unless there is a better, more stable way to fund public education, unless higher education is limited in the amount of the Education Fund it can access — leaving sufficient funds in the Education Fund to adequately fund public education — Utah should not cut its income tax rate.
Fred Ash, Sandy