Business Watch Legislative Updates: Week 6 – February 21-24
We have reached week six out of seven of the 2023 Legislative Session, and the snowy conditions did not detour lawmakers from moving business forward. Currently, there are 560 bills in the House and 291 bills in the Senate, not including resolutions. Sen. Wayne Harperand Sen. Todd Weiler are tied in the lead for the number of bills filed in the Senate as they are sponsoring 32 bills each, and matched only in the House by Rep. Ken Ivory who is also sponsoring 32 bills.
Earlier this week, the Governor’s Office and Utah State Legislature released revised revenue numbers for the state fiscal year (FY) 2023-24. This impacts bills and appropriations for the current session and figures stayed relatively flat to the initial estimates. The revenue numbers will guide the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) as they prioritize funding. EAC meets tonight (2/24) at 6:00 PM. The focus this year is on fiscal responsibility while funding education, investing in statewide infrastructure and water needs, and tax cuts.
SPEAKING OF TAX CUTS
Last week, Republican legislators announced a $400 million tax cut package that includes $208 million for an income tax rate cut.
HB 54, Tax Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, includes that $400 million tax cut package, and advanced through a House committee on Tuesday. Those who argue against the bill state that it would largely benefit high-income earners and moderate- and low-income Utahns would not feel the relief. Some are asking lawmakers to use the funds for unmet needs, including housing, health, and transportation. The bill:
Reduces all Utahns’ income tax rate from 4.85% to 4.65%.
Expands social security tax credit eligibility to individuals earning up to $75,000 per year.
Provides a tax benefit for pregnant women by allowing a double dependent exemption for children in the year of their birth.
Increases the earned income tax credit (EITC) from 15% to 20% of the federal credit.
HB 101, Food Sales Tax Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Judy Weeks Rohner, is part of a deal being offered by legislative leaders. The bill removes the state portion of sales tax on food and is contingent upon removing the constitutional earmark for income tax revenue as laid out in SJR 10, Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Income Tax, sponsored by Sen. Daniel McCay.
OTHER BILLS OF NOTE
HB 491, Amendments Related to the Great Salt Lake, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schultz, creates a Great Salt Lake commissioner to work with state agencies and oversee a plan to save the lake. While the House Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to support this bill, it has been met with some controversy and public comment was mixed. Critics feel that the bill exempts the commissioner’s activities from public records laws and adds more bureaucracy. However, advocates applaud the legislature’s efforts to save the Great Salt Lake strategically and collaboratively.
HB 430, State Olympic Coordination Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Jon Hawkins, creates the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Coordination Committee and authorizes the governor to enter into agreements for state venues and infrastructure to prepare the state to be able to host a future Olympics. Salt Lake City is in the running for the 2030 or 2034 Winter Games. The main contender to host in 2030 is Sweden. Governor Cox signed the bill on Tuesday.
HB 301, Transportation Tax Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Mike Schultz, proposes to slightly lower the gas tax by $0.02, but adds a small fee on vehicle registrations and imposes a new tax on electric vehicle charging stations. The bill aims to have EV drivers pay for the roads that they use. Critics of this bill argue that the new tax would, in some cases, triple tax Utah EV owners. Lawmakers argue that out-of-state electric vehicle drivers are not paying their fair share of taxes to help maintain our highways and claim this bill helps to solve this issue. The Chamber supports implementing an EV charging tax or fee so that policymakers can ensure electric vehicle drivers also pay their share towards maintaining the transportation system.
HB 477, Full-day Kindergarten Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Robert Spendlove, requires school districts to offer full-day kindergarten with an option for half-day. The House of Representatives passed a bill to enact all-day kindergarten and now moves to the Senate. The Chamber views all-day kindergarten as important for the modern workforce. With both parents working in many families, all-day kindergarten provides a safe and reliable option for parents to leave their children while they work.
As always, we will continue to monitor these and other policy developments and provide updates. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more.