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.

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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.

Bountiful Raising Power Taxes Again (2018)

Bountiful City (via the city power company, Bountiful Power & Light) is moving to raise your power bill again on top of last year’s customer charge increase (a 67% jump from $6 to $10/month). As I’ve documented for years, Bountiful city politicians use the municipal power company to raise money while skirting truth-in-taxation requirements. This method provides a significant fund transfer (about $2.5 million this year) and lets city leaders speciously claim the city has lower taxes than others its size.

Now we’re all on the hook for a $2/month/account increase for a “street light fee”. Normally, cities pay the power company for street light electricity. However, if I recall correctly (please correct me if wrong), about 10 years or so ago, Bountiful Power made some bad decisions and played the wholesale market (something a government-owned entity shouldn’t do)* and they lost. Due to the loss, some deal was struck that the power company would cover electricity for street lights and the city wouldn’t pay for it.

Now, city politicians have decided to exploit this abnormal street light cost line item as another avenue to raise funds and cloak actual tax burden. This may also lead to an increase in the power transfer from the current $2.5 million/year.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue to get treated to letters patting residents on the head about being unwitting “investors” and getting ghost “dividends” (and zero SEC protections). The shtick used to be funny but now it’s just insulting.

*The loss may have had something to do with this, but I’m not positive: Bountiful Power “Call-Backs and Resales”.

Edit: I had written FTC rather than SEC. I just realized it and corrected it (so many federal acronyms…). As an aside, these municipal power companies really should also be brought under the jurisdiction of the Utah Public Service Commission.

2018: Utah’s Tax And Spend Legislature, Governor, Our Schools Now and the Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce

Next time someone wants to tell me Utah has a conservative legislature, they can shove it. They’re either GOP(e) party hacks or entirely clueless.

At the end of the legislative session, the GOP-Governor-Chamber of Commerce group managed to jack up your taxes and enable a flimflam scheme to trick people into raising them further…all during a year of budget surpluses (because it’s not your money and labor, it’s really their money to play with).

Here’s what they did: The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce created yet another front group (Our Schools Now) led by a group of Utah’s wealthy elites. They started a ballot initiative pushing for another big tax increase on everyone but themselves. Then they could count on  their “Available Jones” (aka Governor Herbert) along with their shills in the legislature to cut a deal with them – much like the tactic used to begin to crush Utah’s neighborhood caucus system (in the form of SB54 a few years ago). Herbert is now out there on some dog-and-pony show about how he ‘saved’ everyone from some big tax increase. It’s total baloney.

What Herbert and the legislature did (again) is save the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce from spending their own money to run a ballot initiative that was likely to fail. Instead, they passed a couple of increases and will also use your money to fund a tax increase question for the next election. C’mon, when you’re a special interest group tied with the political elite, someone else pays for your initiatives.

So here’s the damage:

  1. They will encourage local governments to further raise the sales tax to dish more cash to the corrupt and fiscally irresponsible Utah Transit Authority (UTA) or its new name, the Transit District of Utah. UTA is (surprise!) promoted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and politically well connected.
  2. They “froze” the rate of the state property tax dedicated to education for five years thereby exempting it from truth-in-taxation hearings . Sounds good, right? Nope. Normally counties drop the tax rate as your home valuation increases as they have a cap on how much they can collect each year. This ‘freeze’ holds the rate regardless of valuation which will result in a surplus (of your money) they will harvest.
    Tip: Be on guard for them extending the freeze in perpetuity and expanding it to other entities that take property taxes. Also watch for an increased tempo of home value evaluations to further boost their take. Face it, property taxes combined with spendthrift politicians mean you never really own you home.
  3. 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.
  4. There’s no guarantee the Chamber/Our Schools Now won’t press for more tax increases…which their politicians can then again cave on to ‘save us all from a bigger tax increase’.

I will acknowledge that there was a small decrease in the income tax but overall the average citizen came out on the losing end since all this, along with the last few years of tax increases, is going to hit your family budget. But so long as our political betters and their buddies can continue to spend your cash like drunken sailors, we totally have the most fiscally conservative politicians….ever!

 

Government Intrusion In Private Sector Claims Another Local Business Scalp (RDAs)

A local South Davis County business (in Bountiful) is closing it’s doors. Winegars, run by a local family, has been in the area for just over 100 years (since 1917). Unfortunately, government fooling around with things best left to the private sector dealt a blow they couldn’t overcome. You see, local governments used redevelopment agencies (RDAs) which provided a significant tax and competitive advantage to competitors (including a large chain/corporate grocer) which Winegars didn’t have (Winegars to close Bountiful store after decades in the community):

Existing stores have often been negatively impacted when redevelopment agencies or community development agencies are established, said Winegar, giving tax breaks to new businesses. The Smith’s on 2600 South in Woods Cross is in a redevelopment agency area and the Lee’s on Redwood Road in North Salt Lake is in community development agency area. Lonny and his brother, Weston, are the fourth-generation owners of the business. They bought it from their father, Dee, some years ago. The first store owned by the family was the Woods Cross Mercantile, which was opened in Woods Cross in 1917 by Thomas E. Winegar.

Yet another example of government actions deciding winners and losers along with some corporate welfare.

Note: Smith’s is part of the Kroger chain.

Bonus read: See the bottom of this post for links on what RDAs are along with the post on another example of abuse of RDA authority.

UTA Joined By Governor Herbert To Fleece Taxpayers

Governor Herbert came out with another bright idea for his Utah Transit Authority (UTA) buddies: More money!

Utah’s governor proposes taking gas tax money to pay for transit improvements

Tucked into the governor’s annual budget recommendations is a proposal to dip into funds normally earmarked for road repairs to pay for improvements to mass transit…

…The gas tax that you pay when you fill up your vehicle is normally spent at the Utah Dept. of Transportation to fix roads. Shifting some of the funds toward improvements in bus and train service might help get people out of their cars.

The governor detailed his idea while speaking to the Salt Lake Chamber earlier this week…

So Herbert (while hanging out with his co-Governor, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce) would like to pilfer road repair funds and funnel them to the UTA. The same UTA that comes with baggage such as travel and land deal scandals, waste highlighted by the State Auditor, and getting sweet tax-funded bailouts.

If they manage to pull off this stunt, the next ruse, when road repairs are delayed due to ‘lack of funding’, will be to cry about the desperate, unforeseeable need to raise the gas tax to fund the roads in critical need of repair. Of course, they’ll expect everyone will have forgotten the transfer to UTA by then.

It’s another episode of cronies paying off cronies.

*This post has received the Available Jones (TM) seal of approval.

Don’t Be Fooled By OurSchoolsNow (AKA Salt Lake Chamber Of Commerce)

Elite political players (particularly the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce) is continuing to push their newest front group: “Our Schools Now”. I noted the Chamber’s newest tax-pushing alias in June along with the ‘fuzzy math’ they’re using to trick people into increasing burdens on Utah’s families (it’s actually big 18% tax increase).

The Chamber (via their alias) is continuing to push the tax hike they exempt themselves from and the coming new year is a good time to remind folks about their game. Click the above link for background on their math and the political insiders backing the increase. Also keep tabs on Libertas Institute as they are on top of the spin coming out from the Chamber as well. That includes reporting on budgetary misapplication (Another Education Ranking Shows Money Isn’t Everything):

…Our Schools Now has said previously, “Even 750 million [dollars] isn’t enough to solve the problems that we’re in.” In other words, no matter how much taxpayer money the Utah Legislature gives to the school system, it will never be enough—not only because funding has very little correlation to student outcomes, but because Utah’s $15+ billion budget looks very much like a leaky sieve when it comes to K-12 education spending. As the state adds taxpayer money to the general and education funds, a lot of it is siphoned off to transportation and higher education.

Utah doesn’t have a lack of funding problem, it has a budget prioritization problem. That is why, in the end, this tax increase initiative will do little to help teachers…