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Rep. McIff report from the Legislature


Interesting Week. The Governor came out in support of civil unions for gay couples. It has produced a flurry of demonstrations.

Part of the art of governing is leading without getting too far in front of the people. That was the lesson from America's experiment with alcohol "Prohibition" between 1920 and its repeal in 1933.

Time will tell how this bold new initiative squares with the will of the people throughout Utah.

The big issues remain centered around the budget. I am encouraging my colleagues to consider reinstating the uniform sales tax on food.

Why so? First, it is proving to be the most stable source of revenue for state and local government. It neither goes up or down with changes in the national or local economy. All other tax revenue sources appear volatile and are drastically down, leaving us short hundreds of millions needed to maintain both public education and higher education as well as corrections, courts, law enforcement, and social services programs.

We have made major cuts in all programs but it now appears that we cannot continue to rely solely upon cuts without compromising the basic integrity of our institutions.

When we changed the food tax from 6 percent to 3 percent two years ago, we created a more complex two-tiered system that is less efficient, more costly to administer and which resulted in a revenue loss to all the small cities and towns in Utah where food related items account for the bulk of all sales. Rural Utah has been injured and would be injured even more if the sales tax on food were further reduced.

Part of my proposal will include relief for persons at or below the poverty line. This is a balancing act. On the one hand, it's desirable when everyone contributes something to our common government. On the other hand, it is much more difficult for some than others. I hope we can reach the proper balance.

I offer one final thought on the subject. We removed the sales tax on food in major part to protect lower income families. However our wholesale approach applies across the board so that in order to protect lower income families we exempt all income levels. The net result is that we give up 85 percent of the most stable revenue source available in order to protect the lower 15 percent.

We need to find a better way.

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