Utah lawmaker proposes income tax hike to fund education

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A hike in the state’s income tax would be good for education, according Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan.

Draxler is drafting legislation that calls for a 1 percent increase, which would raise the state’s personal income tax rate from 5 to 6 percent.

“We can’t maintain our spot as the top state in the union to do business, and as one of the lowest states in education,” Draxler said. “We’ve been doing this dance for too long.”

According to his proposal, the increase would translate to approximately $584 million more in annual funding for education in Utah.

For a family of four, who owns a home and lives on the median income, that increase would cost $575 per year.

“Do you want your child or your grandchild to have a world class education in Utah?” asked Draxler. “Of course, they’re going to say yes. The question is how do we pay for it?”

The answer is not necessarily a tax hike, according to Speaker-elect Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

“Is the answer raising a tax, or raising an income tax?” Hughes asked. “We live in Utah. I think that we are very much in sync with our constituents that we represent, and we worry about taxes and tax increases. So, that’s a weighty matter.”

But supporters of the plan point to Utah’s rankings in the classroom for an argument that carries weight to them.

“We have the highest class sizes in the nation. We have the lowest amount of money being spent, per pupil, in the country,” said Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, president of the Utah Education Association.

As the head of Utah’s largest public education employees’ union, Gallagher-Fishbaugh has watched as many of her members have left to work in bordering states, like Wyoming and Nevada because salaries are better.

“We actually have many openings right now in our schools that are being filled with unlicensed educators and in some cases even student teachers,” she said. “This is long overdue.”

Until 2007, the state’s income was 7 percent. According to the UEA, it then decreased to 5 percent and that move was closely followed by a recession that crippled their budget.

“We haven’t gotten back to those pre-recession levels yet in public education funding,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh said.

While Draxler’s plan may have won over educators in the classroom, lawmakers at the Capitol still have to be sold.

“Let’s make sure whatever those decisions we make don’t have the opposite effect of maybe becoming a disincentive for corporate expansion or relocation or more job growth,” Hughes said. “More job growth is the key to getting more critical dollars to our schools.”

19 comments

  • Mary H

    My husband and I were are senior citizens who have been entertaining the idea of moving to a state with no income tax. If the legislature goes forward with this, we will have no other alternative but to leave Utah.

  • Freedomseeker

    Bad idea. Why don’t you simply use the hundreds of millions of surplus tax dollars you collect, but don’t return to the taxpayers. Using the surplus on education will be much more acceptable than using those dollars on your pet projects.

  • Greg jacquart

    Here is an idea…..stop giving tax breaks to people who don;t even pay taxes. I personally know folks who do not have a job but they have a ton of kids so they get a ton of money back every year. How does that make sense. Stop paying welfare and food stamps to lazy people. There are those who need temporary help when out of work but come on….I know people who make a living off of welfare and say out loud -why should I get a job, even part time, it will screw up my food stamps. Get your priorities straight and stop tapping those of us that are already tapped out.

  • bob

    Something has to be done. Utah class sizes are the largest in the country, and teacher compensation vies with Mississippi for the lowest in the nation.

    Here’ s a radical thought: Stop making babies that you’re neither willing nor able to pay for.

  • David Whittington

    Utah’s public system of education is based on the ‘Socratic Method’ – a system attributed to Greek philosopher Socrates who lived and died 2400 years ago. The Socratic Method involves having approximately 40 pupils sit in a room in uncomfortable chairs while they pretend to listen to some instructor (teacher) read boring lessons prepared ten years earlier. This ridiculous proposed education tax increase simply endorses this FAILED Socratic Method of education. Utah already has MORE than enough funding for education of young people. Throwing MORE money at a system of education developed 2400 years ago will NOT improve education in Utah. Public education in Utah does NOT need more funding – Utah public education needs an entire restructuring from top to bottom involving the implementation of current cutting edge computer technologies and abandonment of the failed ‘Socratic Method’ of learning developed 2400 years ago !!

  • Mimi

    How about our elected officials stop giving themselves pay raises and huge bonuses and then we don’t have to tax people to put more funding into education! Or how about this, the government should take some money out of things that aren’t that important, and put it into education and other more important things.

  • Dave

    How about we use some of the 1.3 billion dollars it will cost to move the Utah state prison out of draper and give it to education instead. The draper prison is being moved for developers to get rich at tax payers expense, yet our leaders want to increase our taxes to pay for schools onto of pay for a new prison.

  • Lance

    How about a lottery? Seems to help education for the OTHER 44 STATES IN THE UNION who have one. Seriously, put it to a vote before jacking taxes up. Crazy concept, I know, to re-write a bill and include a democratic opportunity for the people. Its already slated to be one of the worst tax years in a long time and he wants to raise them more. No thanks.

  • jmp_utah@yahoo.com

    Utah GOP conservatives……nothing but tax and spend liberals in sheep’s clothing. Hey, but it’s for the children……

    If a family of four is going to see $575/year tax increase a family of one (like me) will probably see a $800/year increase…….but it’s for the children. This why my retirement income is going to be taxed in Wyoming or Nevada (NOT!!!!!!).

  • Shane Landon

    No bad idea. What happened to the cigarette tax hike? How much of that went to the class room? It’s just going to go to the administrators. Not t h e class rooms. We pay enough.

  • bob

    Gas prices drop, folks get a little break for a chance, and HERE COME THE TAX HIKES.

    It’s a matter of philosophy. In the minds of politicians your money belongs to THEM, and any money you get to keep is stolen from them.

  • Larry Clark

    OK – I and my wife are retired – have paid Utah State Income taxes for our entire working lives. I actually started paying taxes when I was 12 years old. My children attended schools in Wyoming when their mother and I divorced. The problem is – the legislature is now proposing a 20% tax increase to me (I average about $5K in State taxes every year) while the people and families that use the school systems pay basically nothing. With all the exemptions and deductions for children plus the Federal child tax credits and the Earned Income Credit – they actually get back more than they pay in. Their tax obligation – ZERO. I am going to start looking at Real Estate in other states as a result of this proposal.

  • Jeremy Brereton

    Why don’t we just cut their income by 5% across the board and pump that directly into the education system. I’d say that would more than compensate for the lack of funding which by the way is absolutely disgraceful.

  • rjb

    How about the legislaturetakes the 1/2 billion to move the prison and spend it on education. Then no tax increase is required.

  • bob

    imagine how much could be funded if the LDS Profit Church allowed the state to have a lottery? Every other state uses lotto proceeds to fund education…

  • sundee

    Please no more taxes. Everytime out state has a surplus they give it to educators. I’ve had kids in public education for twenty five years and they’ve given money to education over and over. And the education hasn’t improved. If you want to improve education, give the parents their tax dollars and open education to a free market. That’s what will improve education.

  • mary

    I think this is such nonsense. .raise taxes is a bad idea..we pay so much as it is…the government charges our kids to go to a “public school” where it’s supposed to be free then on top of that they charge us school levy fees through our property tax..we r paying so much money every year and the government needs more for schools?..how about the legislatures stop taking our kids school funds and using it for them and start using the taxes they already charge each one of us to the schools where there supposed to be at. We as parents, citizens , and our children have to suffer due to lack of the government spending and it’s not fair nor Is it right..raising taxes is just another excuse for the government officials to receive more money for themselves and not the schools.

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