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The effort to double the sales tax on food is now on life support, and its sponsor says the prognosis is poor. Opponents say they hope that is true, but never believe anything is dead in the Legislature until it adjourns.
"It's become the politically incorrect thing to do," lamented Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, sponsor of SB270. "The people opposing it have done a good job" to label it as a tax hike that hurts the poor and raises taxes even though Adams says that perception is mistaken.
But Linda Hilton, director of the Coalition of Religious Communities, which advocates for the poor, said after talking to lawmakers herself, "I don't know if it's dead or not. We don't assume anything is dead until the Legislature is over."
In 2006 and 2007, the Legislature lowered the sales tax on food in steps under pressure from then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. from 4.75 to 1.75 percent.
Last week, the Senate passed Adams' bill that would reverse that and set the state sales tax on all items at 4.35 percent, essentially doubling the tax on food but dropping the rate slightly on everything else.
That led to protests at the Capitol by the poor who said they (and everyone) would pay more on the necessity of food so that the rich could pay less on other luxuries. A House committee then killed a House bill similar to Adams' bill. Also, House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, and Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, personally opposed Adams' bill.
So Adams said Monday that his SB270 has little chance of passage now in the House.
"It is still a good idea," Adams said.