Food: A New Sin Tax For Utah?

That’s right. I’m going to say it again: Food is perfectly eligible as a sin tax.

…and by sin, I’m referring to the politician’s and crony organizations’ sin.

Utah legislators are contemplating raising taxes on food because they’re worried about a budget shortfall. It’s funny how that may be the case after we’ve spent, bonded and redirected who knows how many millions or billions on crap outside the proper role of government. I guess all those cute ‘it only costs a tenth/half percent of the budget or it’s just a few dollars a day’ projects add up and you start to fall short for important stuff…like more useless projects government shouldn’t be involved with.

Rather than just slapping everyone with another tax hike, maybe they should look at cutting some of the crony capital junk (UTA, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce front group boondoggles come to mind, among others). How about also ditching wasteful incremental budgeting with all it’s skunks, while your at it?

On the local level, we keep hearing that RDAs for a new, unnecessary city hall building won’t raise taxes. As I said in the past, it’s robing Peter to pay Paul and the piper will come calling when taxing entities find they’ve fallen short of money because the RDA etc. ate some of it up. The above is another example of the fallacy of the city council’s argument.

Finally, politicians don’t own all the guilt. The public (you and I) will band together to form groups demanding stuff like recreation centers, theaters, RAP taxes which impose on budgets and, ultimately, on families. Hopefully, we’ll consider the propriety and whether it’s a core governmental function or not next time we want something, else we’re our own worst enemy.

Tax Vampires: Our Schools Now Is The Latest Political Elites’ Front Group

In December, I highlighted an article on front groups used by Utah political power brokers (with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce as the typical hub). The latest front group they’ve come up with to raise you taxes is “Our Schools Now”.

With the legislative session, Our Schools Now has popped back up to make their push to convince you to raise everyone’s taxes. Don’t fall for it. This is a good time to review the article that traces all the connections and front groups used by the people you aim to benefit from this latest push:

WHO CONTROLS UTAH? An Investigative Report on Utah’s Elite Political Brokers

It’s not just the DC swamp that needs to be drained. We need the “drain the swamp” in Utah as well.

Predictable Goat Rope: Bountiful City Nixes Citizen Vote On New City Hall

A few weeks ago I warned:

Cities and politicians don’t like to lose on these things…politicians will use whatever they can to invalidate a petition or, failing that, pull an end run around a vote outcome…

My post linked to a Clipper article about the city ‘interpreting’ their vote on the city hall. You can guess how they interpreted the vote. Here’s the summary of where things stand from the petition gatherers:

CITY REJECTS CITIZENS’ REFERENDUM
Says New City Hall is Not Up to the Voters

The City of Bountiful on Friday Jan 27th, officially rejected the referendum petition signed by over 4000 Bountiful residents.   “Administrative acts are not referable” to the voters, wrote City Recorder Shawna Andrus about the City’s decision.  In other words, the City claims that the October decision to build a new city hall and plaza—officially the “Bountiful Downtown Plan”—was a mere administrative decision not subject to voter approval.

Council member John Pitt explained his support for rejecting the referendum.  “I see the city hall decision as clearly an administrative decision since it involved no laws, no ordinances, no tax increase, and no zoning changes,” he said.

During December, 4126 citizens signed a petition asking City leaders to put the matter on the ballot next November.  The petition was submitted to the Davis County Recorder who then forwarded it to the City.  Although the City claims the petition was “insufficient,” the message from voters was crystal clear, say the co-sponsors: “Let the taxpayers decide how their money is spent.”

Bryan Anderson, one of the co-sponsors, said that before he started gathering signatures, he did not know how intensely Bountiful residents felt about the City’s plan.  “I now know for sure that the majority of Bountiful residents are against the idea.  Of the hundreds of signatures I gathered, I only met one person who was actually in favor of the idea,” said Anderson. “People didn’t just sign their name in favor of referring the matter to voters, rather, they spoke of their frustration with our city leaders’ decision.”

In October, the City Council voted to demolish the University of Utah Extension building (formerly Stoker School), sell off the current city campus for mixed use development and a bus station, and build a new city hall and plaza on the Stoker site.  Estimates of the cost of the plan vary from $15 million to $22 million dollars.

Council member Richard Higginson admitted at the October City Council meeting that the current city hall “could probably stand for another 60, or 80, or 100 years.”  But, he said, “That’s not the issue.”  “City Hall is just in the way right here for the transit-oriented development” the City Council wants to build on the current city campus.

“What ‘transit-oriented development’?” asks co-sponsor Dean Collinwood.  “Have the citizens ever been given a chance to vote on such a scheme?  Have they ever agreed to have rapid transit busses running in front of the single-family residences near City Hall?   This is a scheme that exists only in the minds of the City Council.  It doesn’t exist in the hearts of the citizens, because they have never been given a chance to vote on it.”

Under Utah law, voters can make some policies directly, without having to go through elected representatives, explained Dean Collinwood. To do so, the issue must involve a “local law,” defined by the Utah Code as any “ordinance,” “resolution,” or “master plan.”

“Clearly, the Bountiful Downtown Plan, a massive project to alter the location of Bountiful’s seat of government, sell off or demolish several pieces of valuable city property, develop Five-Points, and turn the city campus into a rapid transit bus station, fits the legal definition of a master plan perfectly,” he said.

In City documents, the master plan is known as the “Bountiful Downtown Plan.”  City leaders often refer to it as “the plan,” “the project,” or “the comprehensive solution.”  Council member John Pitt calls it “the $22 million redevelopment plan.”  City Manager Gary Hill explained that the idea was to “take advantage of the property around Stoker that the City owns to develop into a plaza, and then to develop…the area around [the current City Hall] as a transit-oriented mixed use development, and then to take advantage of those ideas and reinvest money at the Five-Points area.”

The problem, says Dean Collinwood, is “the people who would pay for it were not asked to approve it.  That’s about as un-American as you can get.”

Half the states in America and all the states in the western half of the country allow popular referendums so that matters can be put forward for direct vote by the people or to recall elected officials. The referendum petition that citizens recently signed was such an effort.

One city-owned property cited for demolition under the Bountiful Downtown Plan is the Stoker School building which is listed on the National Historic Register and which has been used for some thirty years as the University of Utah’s Bountiful Extension.  The Extension caters to some 1200 students a year.  University officials have indicated that if their building is demolished, the University will leave Bountiful and South Davis County permanently.  A group of citizens has already started the process of asking a judge to stop the demolition.

Another part of the masterplan is to sell off the current city campus and turn the space into a bus station surrounded by mixed-use, high density buildings.  Library officials have indicated that the Library is already short on parking space, and that if the city hall campus is filled up with buildings, they will not have space for Library patrons to park…

What I said two weeks ago bears repeating: “Politicians will protect their pet projects tooth-and-nail.”

City politicians have had a field day over the last decade or so heaping new pet projects, taxes, and costs on citizens. It needs to end. The council and mayor should be voted out next election an allow for a fresh start with a focus on core city services/functionality rather than personal legacy building.

Utah’s Secret Sweetheart Deal With Amazon (Update)

Prior to Christmas, Governor Herbert announced a deal with Amazon.com that would have the site collect Utah taxes. Amazon is known to support requiring all online retailers to collect tax (in part to provide Amazon a competitive advantage) and the Utah Legislature has also been making forays for such. At the time, I wondered why Amazon had agreed to do this and figure it had to have some benefit (I was thinking Herbert had assured them he would get the tax bill through the legislature). Evidently, we won’t know much about the deal – Herbert refuses to release the details: Advocacy group wants copy of secret Utah-Amazon tax deal.

Libertas Institute, a Utah group that advocates for personal liberty, was denied a request for a copy of the tax deal struck by internet retailer Amazon and the state of Utah.

They justify the secrecy by saying it is “protected information”. It seems very dubious that government can make such things secret that have no national security value. The only thing we know right now is Amazon is collecting the tax and is getting a kickback that I don’t believe any brick-and-mortar or Utah online company receives:

The State of Utah made an agreement with Amazon where the company gets a 1.3 percent cut of the tax collected.

So it looks like more crony capitalism from the Herbert Administration.

I’m done with it and will actively avoid directly buying from Amazon too (not that I buy much from them anyway). They have plenty of third party sellers who don’t collect the tax (and Amazon doesn’t get the kickback). I’ve also noticed that third party sellers also have their own websites and tend to sell the same product for less thereon. As an added bonus, buying directly from the little guy also allows you to better support small business.

UPDATE: Just checked my messages and low and behold, Libertas Institute is going to follow up on this. Hope they’re successful. Here’s the alert they sent out:

Despite failed efforts to (unconstitutionally) require out-of-state companies to collect and remit the Utah sales tax, the executive branch hasn’t given up its insatiable appetite for tax revenue.

The Utah State Tax Commission entered into a secret agreement with Amazon whereby the e-commerce website would voluntarily do it. The question is, what were they given in return?

We don’t know—and the state doesn’t want us to know.

We requested the document that has those details, but were denied. Many are outraged by that, and the Standard-Examiner and Salt Lake Tribune have editorialized in opposition.

Next week we’ll be appealing the decision, fighting for transparency—fighting against our own government that refuses to let taxpayers know basic information about secret deals with out-of-state companies.

Edit for transparency: I had initially written that I won’t use Amazon anymore but changed that to “actively avoid”. I got thinking about it and if I am given an Amazon gift card, I’m not just going to give Amazon the money and not use it. Nevertheless, I can use it for a third party purchase on the site and also use something like camelcamelcamel.com to get a sale or best price for an item.

Gab Beta Invites Open To All

Update: Invites sent, be sure the check your spam folder. A couple of invites still available.

A few day ago, I posted that I had some Gab.ai invites to hand out and was allocating them with a preference for liberal signups (libs – if you asked for one, they’ve been sent out so check your email  and spam folder, if you don’t have one contact me again ASAP).

Enough time has passed now and I still have some available so they are now up for grabs for whoever wants them – no preference, just first come first serve. To request an invite:

…click the “URContact” link above or right here with an email address you want the invite sent to.

Before requesting an invite, please review the first invite post (Gab Invites Available) so you understand what Gab is and what to expect. Again, regardless of what part of the political spectrum you lie on, thick skin is recommended.

How To Move Apps From One Google Account To Another

Totally off topic for this blog. I’m just putting this up here for future reference and for other people looking for an answer.

I had a couple of Google accounts with apps associated with them and couldn’t figure our how to transfer the apps from one account to a different one as I planned to close/delete the first. Everything I could find with searches said that it can’t be done and you basically had to have the two accounts associated with your device. I really didn’t want two accounts so I stumbled onto a work around (at least for free apps*):

1. First figure out which apps are associated with the account you want to get rid of or not use (ie which apps you want to move to your new account. You can use your play store app on the device to do this or log into the play store from your browser and use the My Apps tab to view what you have.

2. Remove the Google account you don’t want to use on your device (go through the settings to do this – plenty of instructions on the web for this).

3. Log into the play store via browser (not on your device). Go to each of the apps you noted in step 1 and click install. A message will confirm that the app will be installed on your device and after acknowledging this message, the app will be listed as “installed” (the app won’t be downloaded, rather, the system will recognize it is already installed and add the app to your account). You can also verify this by going to the My Apps section and the apps you ‘installed’ should appear in it.

4. I would give it some time and verify that you added still update when the developer/play store release updates. If so, go ahead and delete the unwanted account.

That’s it. It worked for me.

*NOTE: I did this with free apps (paid apps were already installed on the correct account). You can try the above with paid apps but I have no idea if it will work and if those apps will receive updates.

Bountiful City May Circumvent Referendum For New City Hall

A month ago, I noted that Bountiful residents had a “Last Chance To Stop Bountiful City From Blowing $21 Mil Of Your Taxes“. Here’s an update.

First, the good news. It appears that the referendum signature gathering was successful: Ballot petition drive exceeds expectations. The story notes 3,900 signatures were collected in a very short time but I understand the total is closer to 4,100. Those totals, however, are before the signatures are vetted/verified. Nevertheless, referendum proponents expect that they will comfortably meet the threshold for a referendum as they collected a good cushion of extra signatures (about 1,400 beyond the required 2,765).

Now my warning. Cities and politicians don’t like to lose on these things. As I talked to people on this, I remember someone asking me if I thought the referendum had a chance. I told them politicians will use whatever they can to invalidate a petition or, failing that, pull an end run around a vote outcome. Low and behold, about a day or two later I read this in the Clipper (Deadline nearing for city hall referendum petitions):

The committee said that once the signatures are gathered and verified, city administrators can either accept the petitions and put the issue on the November ballot, or reject them, citing the vote to approve by the council was an administrative, rather than a legislative, decision. A final decision on acceptance or rejection could come before the end of January, Collinwood said. [Emphasis added]

Therein is your caveat emptor: Politicians will protect their pet projects tooth-and-nail. Don’t get complacent and think this is on the way to being won. It is not.

For ongoing updates on the referendum and the city hall issue see: NoNewCityHall.com and the Better Bountiful group.