Gov. Gary Herbert says sweeping tax reform is likely off the table this session, but he’s hopeful lawmakers will still find ways to boost education spending.
Since the beginning of the year, Gov. Herbert has urged state lawmakers to consider cutting some tax credits and exemptions that could instead go toward his number one budget priority: education.
But halfway through the session, lawmakers appear poised to pass more exemptions, not fewer — including a break for manufacturers that sailed through the Senate this week.
“I am willing to,” he said. “Obviously I’m not picking on any specific bill. As you know, I always want to read the bills, understanding the pros and the cons before I make a decision, but we ought to be eliminating tax exemptions, not creating more of them.”
Herbert said there’s an array of other options for raising money for schools, including increasing the gasoline tax, a food tax or, as he has repeatedly argued, collecting tax from online sales.
“The online sales tax is one that we need to get done, because that’s what I would consider the most logical, easiest thing to do, which has virtually no detrimental impact to the economic engine of Utah,” he said.
Herbert said without it, the state is deprived of nearly $200 million each year. It’s an issue he plans to push as he heads to Washington, D.C. next week for the National Governor’s Association conference, where he’ll meet with members of Congress and the Trump administration.
Asked whether he was being too passive on tax reform, the governor said he’s only being strategic.
“My deadline is the end of the next legislative session that we actually have something in place that becomes new tax policy,” he said.
He told reporters that some of the work will have to be done during the interim to give businesses, economists and other stakeholders a chance to weigh in.