With the clock running down on the session (ends next Thursday), Utah lawmakers are still considering a yet-to-be-introduced bill to remove the sales tax exemption on food.
The exemption, of course, is meant to help poor people, for whom food costs are a crushing part of their living expenses, make ends meet. But the state, particularly in times of recession, frantically searches for additional sources of revenue and the crosshairs quickly land on the food tax exemption that benefits people with no political power. Genius!
Sen. Todd Weiler argued Friday that data shows the food-tax exemption has the opposite of its intended effect: “It hurts the poor and hurt public education. I have yet to see any data that shows it helps the poor.”
(On the other hand, Weiler thinks labeling pornography sites “18 and over” will turn kids away, citing absolutely no data.)
Sen. Gene Davis, Democratic minority leader, argues no significant tax change should take place without public hearings.
The Legislature launched a task force, led by Sen. Curt “Rambo” Ramble more than a decade ago to revamp, top-to-bottom, the tax code. It didn’t achieve its goal of a flat income tax. But tax experts told the lawmakers the tax base had to be broadened to ride out economic ups and downs. They tried to explain the economy has evolved from manufactured goods- to services-based. Services, including lawyers, landscapers, etc., which the wealthy use far more than the poor—needed to be taxed, they said. The result would be a tsunami of tax revenue and state revenue problems solved long term, the giant-headed tax experts said.
It didn’t happen, of course. Our citizen-Legislature is lousy with lawyers, tax accountants, developers and Realtors—all service users and providers.
American Tax Rule 1: Expand the tax base on the backs of the poor, not the rich.