- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah lawmakers gave teasers on Monday on several bills they plan to introduce in the upcoming legislative session, including proposals to cut, raise and restructure various taxes.

About a dozen lawmakers gave brief presentations Monday morning at a conference in Salt Lake City that was sponsored by the Utah Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit that advocates for limiting taxes.

One lawmaker is working on legislation that would cut business income taxes, while another is working on a bill that would raise the individual income tax rate.

Several lawmakers also discussed the need to adjust or raise Utah’s gas tax, which has remained unchanged since 1997.

Lawmakers didn’t offer many details, with some saying they were still hammering out the specifics as they write their bills.

Leaders in the House and Senate also addressed the group Monday but didn’t specify which proposals they thought might sink or swim in the upcoming session, which starts in two weeks.

Here’s a roundup of some of the proposals lawmakers are expected to unveil in the session:

INCOME TAX FOR SCHOOLS

Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said Utah cut its income tax rate for individuals in 2007, but it’s now time to “bite the bullet” and raise it again to send more money to schools and teachers. Utah’s economic growth has only allowed it to pay for new student enrollment and some teacher health care and retirement costs rather than teacher raises.

Draxler said he’s working on legislation that would raise Utah’s personal income tax rate from 5 percent to 6 percent. It would allow school districts to pay more money to “outstanding” teachers, though is proposal doesn’t define outstanding teachers.

Under his program, school boards and districts would have to show the state education board how they plan to evaluate their teachers and how they’d pay bonuses.

BUSINESS TAXES

Utah hasn’t changed its corporate income tax rate since 1984. Among the states that levy the tax, Utah’s 5 percent rate is among the lowest, according to the conservative Tax Foundation.

But as other states have cut their rates in recent years and three of Utah’s neighboring states offer lower rates, Sen. Deidre Henderson said she wants to cut Utah’s tax too.

“If we become too complacent, we will lose business to other states,” Henderson said.

Henderson said she’s still reviewing the issue but is looking at dropping the rate to 4.5 percent or even 2.5 percent.

GAS TAX

Over the past year, lawmakers have discussed raising the gas tax, which has been unchanged 24.5 cents per gallon since 1997. Republican Rep. Johnny Anderson of Taylorsville said the current rate needs to be raised to pay for more than $11 billion in needed road and transit projects over the next 25 to 30 years.

Anderson said rather than simply hiking the gas tax this year, he’s working on legislation that would have the rate be readjusted every year to account for inflation, gas prices and how much fuel drivers are actually using.

SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY

Sen. Howard Stephenson, a Draper Republican, is working on legislation that would give school boards and districts money to help get tablets or other digital devices in the hands of every student. The goal, Stephenson said, is for the devices and educational software to blend into a student’s class time and homework, allowing them to engage at their own level with the lesson.

The program would cost $90 to $100 million a year, but Stephenson said he didn’t know how much of that price tag his colleagues would be willing to pay for this year.

He said it’s possible his proposal would have to be phased in, starting small with some schools or districts.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide