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Jeff Burningham’s Response to Representative Gibson on Tax Reform

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When speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, House Majority Leader Francis Gibson said candidates for Governor who criticized the tax reform bill “have no clue what this bill was about.”

The leadership at the Capitol has told us that if we only understood what they were trying to do, we would agree with them. They’ve said that to Harmon’s, they’ve said that to the referendum organizers, and they’ve said that to the 150,000+ Utahns who signed the referendum.

They’re wrong. Here’s what we know:

We know two members of the task force who understand this issue best, Senator Bramble and Representative Quinn, opposed your plan. Would you claim they also “have no clue what this bill was about?”

We know sales tax revenues the past 10 years have outpaced population growth and inflation combined.

We know the most recent TC-23 has sales tax growth at 6.7%, and when you include the Medicaid tax it’s 10.3%. We know population growth is at about 1.5% and inflation is at 2.3%.

We know you tried to tell us the general fund is in a crisis. We know you used a chart showing taxable sales divided by personal income declining as the reason reform was necessary. We also know anyone with a basic understanding of macroeconomics knows such a chart will always decline because people can’t spend more money than they make. What we don’t know is if you were ignorant of that fact or if you were intentionally misleading the people.

We know discretionary spending has grown by more than 30% over the past 5 years, and if the Governor’s proposed budget is adopted, we will add another $789 million in discretionary spending over ongoing, base appropriations. We know over this same time frame, the average wage earner has only seen wage gains of 15%, with many less than that.

We know most of the tax reform bill was negotiated behind closed doors and even members of the task force were often kept in the dark.

We know there weren’t any public hearings on the final bill that was passed.

We know well-intentioned lawmakers didn’t even have time to read the bill before they voted on it. 

We know bills passed in 2018 and 2019 will bring in hundreds of millions of new online sales tax revenues to the general fund. We know you did not inform the public of that fact when you were pushing for raising the sales tax on food.

We know you failed to act on correcting the dependent exemption. We know doing so raised taxes on large Utah families by hundreds of dollars.

We know you could’ve given Utahns a much bigger break on the income tax and still funded a healthy 5% increase in the WPU.

You say we have no clue what this bill was about. Maybe next time you should take time to listen.