When it comes to Utah’s Legislature, much of the attention focuses on the general session which takes place in January through March each year. While this time is critical to passing the state budget and many other important laws, monthly interim sessions are where the preparation happens and the work gets done before the general session even begins. Each committee studies various issues, including legislation that did not pass in the last general session, and approves bills to be considered during the upcoming general session. For more information regarding the specifics of an interim session, check out this blog post.
This month, the Salt Lake Chamber’s policy staff attended three interim committee meetings to keep business leaders up to date on issues pertinent to them. Here is the rundown:
Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee
Air quality and energy were the focus of this committee. The first report was regarding ozone pollution in the Uintah Basin. Dr. Seth Lyman, senior research scientist from the Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project, reported on research his team conducted to understand the natural conditions that contribute to the Uintah Basin’s ozone nonattainment status from the EPA. They found that natural conditions significantly contribute to ozone nonattainment. While winter ozone levels are less understood than summer, Lyman believes the Basin and the state could reduce ozone emissions and more effectively prove these “exceptional events” to the EPA, so as to not trigger the need for a state implementation plan. Dr. Laura Nelson, the Governor’s Energy Advisor, reported on the Governor’s Energy Action plan and the exciting news that Utah was awarded the DOE FORGE Grant which translates into 8,000 jobs in rural Utah and $140 million in DOE funding over five years for research and development.
Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee
The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee discussed several potential changes to the state’s income tax code in response to recent federal tax reform. The first change would be net operating loss legislation that would eliminate the ability for a taxpayer to carry back a Utah net loss to an earlier taxable year, while also removing the 15-year limit for a taxpayer to carry forward a net loss. The other major discussion revolved around the Repatriation Transition Tax (RTT) and the Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI Tax) respectively. In both cases, legislators were presented with two versions of draft legislation, one proposing the state conforms with the federal changes by including the deferred foreign income in the state tax base for one year, and the other proposing the decoupling from the federal changes by crediting back any taxes that have already been paid. No official action was taken on these bills, but another committee meeting was scheduled to further these and other discussions regarding the state’s options for tax code changes as they relate to federal tax reform.
Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee
James Wood, Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute reported on the findings from the landmark study on housing affordability that was commissioned by the Salt Lake Chamber. He discussed the rapid appreciation of housing prices in the state and the the potential economic threat it poses if not addressed. Senator Anderegg encouraged all committee members to review the report for future conversations. He also encouraged the committee to start using the term “housing affordability” instead of affordable housing, to focus less on the product and more on a holistic approach.
These are just three of many meetings happening on the Hill this week. Visit le.utah.gov for a full listing and audio of all interim committees, or check back here next month for more interim updates. As always, reach out to our public policy team with specific questions or ideas. We are willing to help answer questions and share the Chamber’s policy positions on topics.