Official: The Utah Tax-And-Spend Legislature Raised Your Taxes (Again), Will Use Legal Plunder For Political Cronies

On Wednesday, the Utah Legislature met for a special session to raise your taxes…again. Politicians say that because the State hasn’t collected sales tax from internet purchases, it has “lost” millions in revenue. First off, that isn’t the state’s/government’s money – that money belongs to citizens. It represents a portion of their labor. The government lost nothing to begin with.

You’ll notice that the state is funding things just fine and is not running a deficit. So rather than leaving us alone they’ve used this “government losing millions” to raise taxes and create a windfall for themselves to spend on their pet projects etc. This windfall comes on top of the property tax increase scheme they created earlier this year. In the case of the extra money this time, they’ve decided to dish out your money to their favored businesses (also known as crony capital).

To incentivize those companies, the state has allowed them to keep up to 18 percent of collected sales taxes. That incentive will end once the law requiring companies to collect taxes takes effect in January….However, about $55 million has already been earmarked for a tax break for manufacturers that lawmakers approved…

See, they know much better than you where you should spend your money and will even choose the businesses for you – how kind. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is behind this especially given that Sen. Curt Bramble was the sponsor. The whole thing really embodies Bastiat’s principle of legal plunder.

On the local level, Representative Ray Ward voted for the increase (he loves raising taxes and spending people’s money for his own interests) and Senator Todd Weiler also voted for it. I have no idea why Ray Ward purports to be conservative, he’s not. At very best, he’s a very liberal republican but he should just be honest and run as a Democrat.

Then again, per KUTV’s article, maybe even some Democrats might have a problem with which cronies Ward wants to fund:

“When do we say enough to manufacturers, enough to EnergySolutions, enough to private little tax cut deals to people?” said Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Democrat.

The tax administration requirements will also hit small businesses harder with serious overhead that many have noted will likely harm them and favor big business as they can easily afford the overhead (lower per unit cost):

The requirement to collect sales tax will apply to companies that do at least 200 sales or $100,000 worth of sales in Utah in a year.

Essentially, they’ll provide competitive advantage to big businesses (who afford lobbyists, and entrenched political power players, like the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce). So government will pick winners and losers.

On the up side, the legislature was apparently shamed into addressing the income tax increase they imposed on middle class families (they knew about it during the general session and ran it anyway). Do note that I’ve heard it was only a partial adjustment so some will still see an increase.

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Bountiful’s 2018 Property Tax Increase (Bountiful City And Ray Ward Heaping More Tax Increases On Families)

You’ve either received or will soon receive a glossy tax increase notice from Bountiful City. They are planning on jacking up your property tax rate. Part of this is thanks to Representative Ray Ward having a voracious appetite for tax increase schemes (like the homeless offset through 2018 SB235 and property tax games). However, this also comes on the heels of:

There are a few other increases that I think I’m missing but I don’t have time and you get the gist.

City politicians, however, say we have some critical stuff to fund like roads and police. Funny thing is we already have the money but local politicians and special interests don’t want to give up their pet projects. As I said when we faced the 4000% increase for fire service, the money was flushed:

[Politicians] had other big priorities like Recreation Centers, RAP taxes, theaters, plazas* and fun attempts at new city halls, skate parks, museums, art centers, street cars and other crap I don’t remember anymore.

I also missed the forced recycling fee (which Ray Ward lobbied for). It’s garbage…literally. With China calling it quits on recycling junk, we’re literally paying an extra fee for garbage.

No wonder so many city leaders endorsed Ray Ward. Talk about scratching each others’ backs.

Finally, the offensive “Bountiful has 2nd lowest individual tax rate of the 15 Davis County cities” falsehood. It’s total shell game Beeee Essss:

Bountiful uses the city power department to cloak the actual tax/government burden by manipulating rates and fees as an additional revenue stream into the general fund that isn’t subject to truth in taxation. As I’ve demonstrated here and several city politicians (and a former city manager) acknowledge, without the cloaked power tax, actual tax rates would be roughly doubled**.

Go back to the tax chart the city placed on the tax notice. If you double the rate (from 0.000832 to ~0.0016) to account for the transfer from the power company (thus comparing apples-to-apples with other cities), Bountiful ends up in the top 5 highest taxed in Davis county (about tied with Kaysville!).

Why would I get excited about Kaysville? Because Kaysville used to also use it’s municipal power company to manipulate rates and cloak taxes. Citizens figured out the game and forced an end to the practice. The result was Kaysville’s tax rate went up to it’s real (unhidden) level. This near rate match between Bountiful’s adjusted rate and Kaysville’s rate lends more credence that the above doubling is valid.

The open house is at City Hall on July 19 at 6PM and the official public meeting is at City Hall on August 7, 2018 at 7PM. Good luck.

*Addendum: Here’s some irony for you. The city is hiring two workers for their frivolous plaza. Meanwhile, the city is justifying part of the tax increase to hire two new police officers.

**Addendum 2: Another analysis by Ron Mortensen combined the revenue from property tax and the power transfer to calculate the actual rate results in a rate of 0.001361 (pre increase) 0.001448  (post increase) or about equivalent to North Salt Lake  (a couple of cities behind Kaysville) and in the middle of the other cities (certainly not second lowest).

Thanks To Count My Vote And SB54, Primary Election Nominees Are Elected By The Minority

Just one more data point in the junk that is Count My Vote (2014’s SB54). I’m limiting this to Davis County but anticipate the same thing occurred or will occur in other counties/cities as well and will continue to do so.

Political elites and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce felt a threat to their power base so they teamed with the media and foisted “Count My Vote” drive on us which culminated in their swampy legislative cronies (Senator Bramble, naturally) shoving SB 54 down or throats in 2014. It allows candidates to circumvent the accountability of the neighborhood caucus system and pay cash to gather signatures to go directly to the primary ballot where their money provides them a key advantage over otherwise good candidates from the “great unwashed” (see video at above link).

They used the sophistry of ‘every vote counting’ and not wanting ‘anyone to be disenfranchised’ to justify their power grab while also being certain to…not provide for a run off election in the event a candidate doesn’t get over 50% of the vote. We’ll here are some nominee* vote totals we now have thanks to their dumb scheme:

Utah House of Reps, District 20 – Melissa Ballard 41% (59% did not vote for her).

Davis County Commission – Lorene Miner Kamalu 41% (59% did not vote for her).

So, who feels their vote “counted” now…do we all have a warm enfranchised feeling? No? Maybe we should tell the elites to stuff it, support restoring our voices and return to a level playing field with KeepMyVoice.

UPDATE: I changed the post title after I looked at a Salt Lake race near Davis County. This one shows the CMV/SB54 impact for the Democrat Party:

Utah House of Reps, District 24 – Jen Dailey-Provost 35% (65% did not vote for her).

*Note: Be aware that this isn’t a hit on the nominees. They may well have been able to pull the majority in a run-off but we’ll never know thanks to SB54/Count My Vote effectively muzzling the majority’s voice.

Don’t Press Your Luck With Tax-And-Spend Incumbents (UPDATE: Ray Ward Strikes Again)

Take a look at your phone bill and compare it to about a year ago, focusing on the tax portions. You’ll notice a significant increase on each phone line, ramping up your bill. You can thank our tax-and-spend legislators for this.

I don’t have time to analyze each increase for each line item this year and prior years. However, based on this article summarizing a set of 2017 tax increases (see the “Statewide telecommunications and prepaid cell phone rate increases” section) coupled with the voting record for 2017’s SB198, its clear legislators run up your bill. In South Davis, on of those with a history of voting for tax increases is Ray Ward and that’s no exception here either. Going on with my last post’s theme, it’s time to stop pressing our luck with Ward…this is a fourth ‘whammy’ and in the game, that means you’re out. I hope Phill Wright can pull off the win.

I’m probably too late for the primary election but if you’ll be voting at the polls, please take this last minute to look up voting records and be aware of many incumbents’ propensity to drive up family tax burdens.

UPDATE (6/27): Found out another item. Evidently Ray Ward was also behind forcing mandatory recycling fees down Bountiful resident throats (despite the majority of respondents opposing it). I understand he used a Scout troop to lobby (that is a no-no by Scout policies, BTW) the city council for the mandatory tax (“fee”) they surreptitiously shoved through as a “discussion” item. To top it off, the recycling market has tanked so we’re now also forced to pay for our ‘recycling’ to go to a dump. Thanks a whole bunch, Ray.

Unfortunately, Ward made it through his primary so this doesn’t bode well considering his penchant to use heavy-handed government means to fund all sorts of programs (including his own interests) through your wallet (even if it takes co-opting politically neutral groups).

Double Whammy: Ray Ward Hit Bountiful With Another Tax Increase

In my last post a couple of weeks ago, I highlighted the the legislature’s move to slap a tax increase on middle income families. I urge voters to question incumbents (such as Ray Ward) on this tax and spend craze. However, there’s another surreptitious tax increase and I finally got around to highlighting it.

It turns out Ray Ward also supported freezing the property tax rate for five years. “Freezing” sure doesn’t sound like an increase, does it? That’s the sophistry politicians hope you fall for. Don’t.

Here’s the trick: Property tax rates are normally variable and the dollar amount cities/counties collect on your property is fixed. For example, if the dollar amount is fixed at $1,000 for your home and it is worth $100,000 the variable rate is 1% (100,000 X 0.01 = $1,000). If next year your home’s valuation jumps to $200,000 then the variable rate drops to 0.5%  (200,000 X 0.005 = $1,000) to maintain the fixed dollar amount.

The above system was turned on its head for five years. Thus, if your home increases in value it will be taxed at the same rate and government reaps the windfall profit. In our above example, if your home valuation jumps to $200,000, it would still be taxed at 1% and your would pay $2,000 in property taxes with politicians having extra cash to play with in their sandbox. The crafty plan is banking on home values continuing to spike (and trust me, if the bubble bursts, they’ll rapidly move to ensure no loss).

The property tax manipulation is yet another gut punch for middle income families courtesy of many incumbent legislators.

But we’re not done yet! There’s another whammy. This one is a regressive tax too: As I noted back in March, Ray Ward and his legislative buddies plan on duping voters with a gas tax increase:

They will shove a question on the next election ballot asking for a 33% increase in the gas tax from $0.29/gallon to $0.39/gallon.
Here’s the flimflam: A few actual conservative legislators asked that they phrase the ballot question to include the percent increase (33%) or the old/new rate (0.29-0.39/gallon), thus giving voters clarity and context. Niet! said our liberal GOPe legislators and blocked the motion. Now the Chamber et al. can try to pull the wool over naive voters and spin the increase as ‘just a small 10 cent increase’. It’s a significant increase ($2.00 per fill-up) and will impact family budgets. In addition, it will not add even one penny to road funds since the amount going to roads from the general fund will be reduced by the amount of the increased fuel tax.

Ray Ward is the only incumbent in a primary in South Davis County right now (Edwards isn’t running). He’s supported three tax increases on middle income families (really a triple whammy). I would certainly look at his opponent (Phill Wright) as Ward is neck deep in heaping burdens on families. Regardless of where you live, check on how your incumbent has voted for the above.

Please, no more Whammies.

Full Disclosure: I know and support Phill Wright but am not affiliated with his campaign.

Primary Election Issue: Yes, The 2018 Utah Legislature Raised Taxes On Middle Class Families

If you haven’t noticed yet, take a look at your recent paycheck. If you have a family and have a middle class income, you may notice that your take home pay went down. But how can this be? We were told the legislature (slightly) lowered the income tax rate from 5.00% to 4.95%. Yes, but they also knowingly did nothing about the removal of personal deductions. The Trib article,“Utahns with large families could be paying a lot more in state taxes next year”, and it’s associated impact table (be sure to look at it!) sum it up:

The Utah Legislature passed a 0.05 percent income tax cut this year but took no action on changes in federal tax law that eliminated personal deductions. The decision means most Utah taxpayers will pay more in state tax in 2019 even though their overall tax bills will be lower because of the federal cuts.

Legislators and he Governor were well aware of the need to address the changes and certainly better not claim ignorance:

For example, an $80,000-a-year family of seven with one disabled child might currently itemize deductions equal to about 20 percent of income and end up with a state tax bill of $2,200. Next year, that family will do better claiming the standard deduction. But they will lose $17,000 in other deductions, and their tax bill could jump by $1,000, or 45 percent.

Lawmakers knew all this back in January, when the state Tax Commission reported a potential $80 million windfall for the state thanks to federal tax changes and outlined the “average Joe” impacts. The cost of the income tax cut the Legislature eventually approved was about $55 million — an amount more than offset by that windfall.

But for about the same cost, lawmakers could have taken action to preserve the state personal exemption and pass along those savings to taxpayers — something that neighboring Idaho did this year by creating a state child tax credit.

House Bill 385 was such a bill. Introduced by first-termer Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, it didn’t even get out of committee, a victim of other priorities.

Yes, they had “other priorities”…like helping political cronies such as UTA with millions for a name change. Maybe another priority was creating a bridgehead for an education ‘head tax’ on children but they didn’t have the guts to debate it in the open. Instead, they chose to sneak one through on taxpayers and Governor Herbert went along with it.

Since it’s primary season and an election year, this issue would be a good one to bring up to incumbent state legislators (such as Ray Ward in South Davis County) and opposing candidates.

How To Make Your Utah Voter Registration Information Private

As I’ve explained in the past, the state of Utah and Utah’s county clerks are required by law to sell the personal information of more than 1.5 million registered voters for $1,050—voter identification number; first, middle, and last name; voter status (active or inactive); absentee status; original registration date; party affiliation; phone number (if provided by voter); mailing and residence address, voter participation history; and method of participation (absentee, by mail, normal, etc.).  Of course, some of the elites, such as the governor have managed to have their personal information protected.

If that weren’t bad enough, certain entities including political parties, or an agent, employee, or independent contractor of a political party, candidates for office, financial institutions, health care providers, researchers and insurance companies are authorized to purchase the month and year of birth of registered voters along with all of their other personal information.

Once purchasers have the voters’ information, they can do whatever they want with it including tracking down the victims of domestic violence who may have changed their addresses, accessing teenagers’ private information or even posting the entire list, less the month and year of birth, to the Internet.  In fact, the personal information of roughly 1.8 million Utah registered voters can already be found on voterrecords.com.

2018 legislature finally made it possible for registered voters to protect their personal information.

For over five years, my father worked with Representative Becky Edwards (R), who unsuccessfully ran bill after bill designed to protect voters’ personal information.  Their efforts were always stymied by the state’s two major political parties and powerful business interests who insisted that if voters wanted to exercise their right to vote, they had to give them their personal information.

Finally, in 2018, two election related bills, SB74 and HB218 were passed with provisions making it possible for Utah voters to request that their voter registration records be made private.  Both bills passed the House and the Senate unanimously and were signed by the governor.

In addition to Representative Edwards, the following legislators played a key role in making it possible for Utah voters to exercise both their right to vote and their right to privacy:  Senator Karen Mayne (D), Senator Deidre Henderson (R), Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D), Representative Sue Duckworth (D), Representative Karianne Lisonbee (R), and Representative Norm Thurston (R).

Salt Lake County Clerk, Sherrie Swensen (D) also worked diligently to give voters the right to make their voter registration a private record.

So, how do I make my voter registration record private?

If you are NOT already registered to vote, go to the state website and register to vote. When asked “Would you like to make your record private,” click on “Yes.”

If you are already registered to vote go to the state website, update your voter registration information and make your record private by clicking on “Yes.”

If you are completing a paper form to register to vote, when asked on the form “Would you like to make your record private, check “Yes.”

How do I remove my records that were previously sold by the state from voterrecords.com?

According to voterrecords.com:

We respect your privacy and have a simple way for those wishing to remove some of their public records data from appearing on VoterRecords.com.

Step 1: Search for a person [by clicking here and then entering your info in the Search Filters on the left.]

Step 2: Click on the person’s name in the search results, this will take you to the individual’s detailed record page.

Step 3: Scroll to the very bottom of the page and click the Record Opt-Out link. This will take you to the opt-out form specific to that record.

Step 4: Once the form is submitted we will send you an email with a verification link that you will need to click to verify your opt-out request. (Not everyone will receive the verification email. If you do not receive the email this typically means your record was successfully processed without additional verification being needed.)

Once you have done this, data such as: house number, phone, and email address should no longer appear. Make sure to refresh the page and clear your browser cache if you are still seeing the data after you have completed these steps.

Please remember that all voter records appearing on VoterRecords.com are public record and can be obtained directly from the government by anyone at anytime. Removing information from VoterRecords.com has no effect on the official records the government maintains and releases.  [Therefore, unless you make your voter record private, the state will sell it to voterrecords.com and voterrecords.com may add it to their list even if you have previously removed it.]

So, that’s it.  Take five minutes now and protect your personal information.  And, pass the word on to your family and friends.  After all, if the state won’t do its job and protect our information, then we will have to do it ourselves.  At least, we can now vote without being forced to let the state sell our personal information to the world, political operatives and a bunch of businesses and health care providers.

Note: This post was co-written with Ron Mortensen (hey, there’s a first time for everything).