Today’s Special Session: No Time for Transparency
News-Opinion by Ed Wallace / Publisher at UtahStandardNews.com / July 18, 2018
The Utah State Legislature will meet today at 2:30pm to vote on a massive 11-point agenda of proposed new legislation that totals hundreds of pages of legalistic text. The texts of the tax bills were not available to Legislators until after 10pm last night and bill summaries were being distributed as late as 1am this morning.
A few powerful controllers are running this process and producing the texts they want passed, and will now try to get the legislature to rubber stamp this stuff, without having had the time to study and vet hardly any of it. This conjures up memories of what Nancy Pelosi said of the Affordable Care Act in 2010: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
What a messed-up way to make public policy!! This is the SECOND SPECIAL SESSION called by Governor Herbert since the 62nd Legislature adjourned in March. The 11 policy issues that are currently on the agenda include amending provisions to the Inland Port Authority and the Utah Sales and Use Tax to address the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month in the South Dakota vs Wayfair, Inc. case concerning the collection of online sales tax.
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The very technically-oriented Revenue & Taxation Interim Committee, backed by the Tax Commission, pushed hard to get various tax policy issues onto the Special Session agenda — but surprisingly, not only had some of the Committee’s core tax-cutting recommendations been abandoned by Leadership and the Governor’s office, but entirely new tax-increasing proposals that run counter to the Committee majority’s stated intent were instead inserted onto the 11-point Agenda for the Special Session today.
Some Legislators fear that other proposals may pop up and be attached to the current agenda items. For instance, there has been heavy lobbying to create a new Earned Income Tax Credit for Intergenerational Poverty Families. This would put the government and Utah taxpayers in the business of cutting tax refund checks for people that EXCEED the amount of taxes that they paid.
The E.I.T.C. supporters who WANT to give taxpayer money to other people are saying that it’s merely taking money that could have been given back to corporations and instead passing it along to our neediest citizens. They are tying corporate tax to personal individual income tax in this debate and have muddied this issue in a silly and irrational way.
Informed voters see this as an odd position for self declared “conservative” legislators to take and are appalled at how often their elected representatives stray into being mainstream RINOS or even moderate-leftists-socialists while pretending to represent their predominantly conservative districts.
While amendments CAN be made on the floor of either Chamber today once the Special Session begins at 2:30, it is certainly much more difficult now for conservative legislators to fight against bills that would increase taxes. Furthermore, the Speaker’s office has notified legislators to prepare to stay at work in the Special Session until late tonight, so let’s hope that any unsavory provisions that arise today from the “ether” of back-room deal cutting, will be discovered and rooted-out before the final bills are enacted by the end of the day.
For now, Gun Control legislation is not on today’s list. That is a big win by the members who have been successful in fighting to block the Governor and Legislature from putting Gun Control on the agenda. But, it can pop back up very easily.
Today’s session highlights a total lack of transparency and removes the ability of members to be responsible leaders (for those who want to be responsible) and honor their commitment to their constituents and their oath of office. Our state leaders are chomping at the bit to remove as much money from our pockets as quickly as they can without us knowing about it. I’d like to see just ONE of our elected “conservative” representatives stand up for the values that most Utahns hold and attack this Special Session on the floor. There is nothing today that can’t wait until the 63rd Legislature session so that these proposals, and Utah citizens, get the scrutiny and representation they deserve.
UPDATE: A motion was passed through the Revenue & Tax Committee this morning stating that it was their intent to provide tax relief for Utah’s families, not to grow government spending, if more revenue from the online sales tax collections or other new sources.
This story is developing and the most conservative block of the legislature is doing their best given the constraints they face. One representative, Travis Seegmiller, R, HD62 (Washington County) is holding their feet to the fire and is on record that the back-room deals that have been cut are against the stated will of committees, like the publicly stated Revenue & Tax Committee. Seegmiller presented the powerful motion that got the consensus of the committee to not bloat government, but instead to give large families tax breaks. Let’s give credit where it is due.
For readers who are closely watching the Special Session, remember that proceedings are broadcast live on the internet, and often the most responsive legislators or their staff will even take your call or email right during the Floor proceedings. So CALL OR EMAIL YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY TO ITERATE YOUR CONCERNS THAT ETHICAL AND EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT BE PRESERVED TODAY IN THE STATE OF UTAH!