This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Gov. Gary Herbert put a positive spin Tuesday on the death of several tax reform initiatives in the Legislature in recent days including an attempt to raise sales tax on food, reform income tax credits and deductions and better collect tax on online sales.
"I've always suggested this would probably take us two legislative sessions to get right," the governor said of reform efforts.
So all is not lost by this session's setbacks.
"By the end of the next legislative session, we should have a good tax policy for Utah to go forward in the next generation," he said.
Herbert said he appreciates the deep dive by lawmakers analyzing the effects of increasing sales tax on food, and on the effects of phasing out income tax credits and deductions for the rich more quickly. That work, he asserts, isn't wasted and will ultimately help find solutions later.
"The Legislature dug into this very vigorously, and has done some good things," he said.
He added finding a proper balance is tough. "That's kind of like whack-a-mole. You get something figured out on one side, and the unintended consequence on something else" pops up.
Herbert has pushed for tax reform, in part, to fight the Our Schools Now initiative that seeks to put a $750 million income tax increase on the ballot for education.
He has said the initiative may not be needed if Utah could come up with extra money by such things as reforming taxes.
Herbert acknowledged that the lack of legislative tax reform may give Our Schools Now extra impetus to move forward.
"I think they believe passionately in what they are doing and they should move ahead," Herbert said. "I don't think there's any question they have the opportunity and certainly the right to do so."
That movement, he said, is "helping motivate us all to take a look at what are the options out there to enhance revenue for education. It seems like everybody agrees with this one fact: that is we need to put more money into our education system."
He said the trick is how to do that while "making sure we are not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs." He said that goose is Utah's strong economy, and said the sort of tax hike proposed by Our Schools Now could kill it by chasing away companies.
"I think we need to take a look at all of the options," he said.
Herbert vowed, "Funding of education is going to be a top priority for us going into the future. Eighty percent of all new money that we're getting in the state now is being put into education, so we are I think prioritizing correctly."