'Our Schools Now' Takes The Legislature Hostage
You may have heard of the effort by Education First, Our Schools Now, and a group of wealthy businessmen to hike our income taxes by $750 Million through a ballot initiative. While this constitutes a nearly 20% increase in taxpayer's out of pocket expenses, the group is hoping you won't mind, sign their petition, and vote for it anyway.
The threat of a citizen ballot initiative is a popular way for special interest groups to intimidate the Legislature. You may recall Count My Vote and their crusade to abolish the party Caucus/Convention system. The Legislature saw that the threat was real and drafted SB54 to prompt a cease fire. The fight stopped but the consequences of SB54 live on.
With Education First's heist, my bet is we are in a recession by 2018 when their initiative would appear on the ballot and voters reject the measure.
Besides, there are many ways for the Legislature to trim up tax credits and other tax policies to help create funds for education that have been overlooked. Legislation I recently passed helps the Legislature identify those funds.
Meanwhile, expect the Legislature to be insulted by these provocative gesticulations. The thought of a few wealthy people willing to advocate for an increase of taxes on the common man just doesn't sit well with me. And in an even more ironic twist, the key provocateurs are former Legislators themselves. Retirement is boring, I guess.
Look for this issue to come up again but it will likely come from a research angle. The change in the Administration in D.C. will require a lot of clarity in federal policy before you see major medical marijuana initiatives move forward. The uncertainty will cloud this issue this year, I believe.
Business Licensing Simplification
Utah has a moderately heavy regulatory apparatus when it comes to licensing businesses. Efforts are underway to create a principled and well reasoned policy for requiring businesses to be licensed. This effort should reduce burdens to businesses and open up competition in many industries.
The dejected voters who suffered in big lines on election day this last cycle will have their grievances addressed in several bills. Most of those bills will come to our Government Operations Committee of which I am the Chair.
Mr. Peterson's Bills
HB23 - Income Tax Credit Modifications - This bill will phase out rooftop solar tax credits. The bill will move $24M+ to the education budget. Learn more HERE, HERE, and HERE.
HB24 - Student Prosperity Savings Program - Tax Amendments - This bill leverages private funds to help disadvantaged and poor students pay for college education expenses.
HB64 - Property Tax Relief Amendments - This bill clarifies that widows and widowers may receive existing property tax relief regardless of their age.
HB73 - Child Placement Amendments - This bill passed the House and died on the Senate board last Session due to time constraints last Session. It requires outstanding arrest warrant checks to be conducted on parents of children in state custody before the state moves for reunification.
I have a couple more bills that are being drafted right now. Look for more details on those as they are published...
In a final note, I am looking forward to my new assignment as Chair of the Government Operations Standing Committee. I will be flanked by my wingman Rep. Norman Thurston who will serve as Vice-Chair. We should have a very interesting agenda this year. Look for more reports to come!