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…

Bountiful City Mayor And Council: Pet Project Priority Precedes People Protection

Who knew? We live in a utopia in Bountiful where there’s no such thing as opportunity cost. Well, at least if you’re a local politician, that is.

This is really a tale about all South Davis mayors and city councils (North Salt Lake, West Bountiful, Woods Cross, Centerville) and applies to many more in state, county  and city governments. I just decided to focus on Bountiful. We will soon be paying more property tax…again. This time we’re on the hook for a higher county tax (~22% increase), library tax (~20% increase), and South Davis Metro Fire tax: Despite push back, Metro tax increase approved. At least it’s only a 4000% increase. No that’s not a type-0.

Here’s the game the cities played. I attended the above meeting. As the Fire Chief noted, about a decade or so ago South Davis cities set up a special fire district. When they did so, they had to set a tax rate, however the initial rate they set would have to be offset by a reduction in city taxes to keep the overall tax burden on citizens the same. So, what did the cities and new district do when faced with funding a core/critical function of government?….. Yep, they set the lowest possible rate so politicians wouldn’t have to man up and cut anything (even temporarily). Then they let things fester for years because they 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.

A decade or so down the line, surprise! We have ourselves a crisis of fire buildings in disrepair, personnel retention issues, increasing response times (and risk to life) and responders not being able to follow recommended staffing guidelines for emergency response. Well, this is a crisis, indeed and now we need to fix it, ergo 4000% increase.

But there’s a silver lining: since it’s not the initial tax rate, this time the tax rate doesn’t have to be offset by a reduction in city taxes! No, thank goodness young families and the elderly on fixed incomes who account for opportunity cost in family budgets will have to dole out more cash and our local politicians can keep their budgets focused on the important things. I mean, who really wants to be known for telling special interests to pay for their own fun and just funding mundane critical needs like streets, police and fire? Booooring!

No, far better to be known for the special unnecessary neat-o projects you can affix your name to (a legacy!) with fun ceremonies that ignore those who were forced to pay for it all.


Addendum: If you read the Clipper article a lady mentioned “Our Schools Now” also barking at our doors for more taxes. Please be aware of the math game they are playing and don’t fall for it.

South Davis Taxpayers Tapped To Pay For Politician, Special Interest Spending

I’m going to keep this short and simple. We have another tax increase we’re being told is necessary. This time it’s actually for something that is a core government function. From the Clipper article (Tax increase meant to benefit residents, firefighters):

Last week the South Davis Metro Fire Agency proposed a property tax increase to cover critical needs in staffing and equipment.  Some residents may be asking why since there was already an increase last year.

As I Gabbed when I saw the article:

If tax increase is so critical, why did #BountifulCity and so many other cities blow tax money on oodles of stuff outside the scope of core government functions?

Normally, I would vote for this increase. Not this time. City politicians can cut some of their pet projects’ funding and forgo other pet projects (city hall, plaza, RAP tax, theaters, rec centers, etc. etc….) first. They blab about the urgency they themselves create by tapping us out for their wasteful projects and the non core government projects special interests convince them they “need”. If it’s so urgent, lets see them drop a couple these “skunks” just like a family has to cut some fluff when a pressing issue comes up.

UPDATE: See my latest post on the outcome of the tax.

Doubling Dose Of Utah Corporate Welfare For Amazon.com

In January, I noted the sweetheart deal Governor Herbert had dished out to Amazon. It amounted to Amazon getting a cut of the tax revenue they collect by charging tax to Utah residents. I concluded:

…Amazon is collecting the tax and is getting a kickback that I don’t believe any brick-and-mortar or Utah online company receives…

Herbert and his cohorts heralded this as some great thing. I guess crony capital is so good, they felt like giving Amazon more of it. In June they announced:

…[Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development] GOED’s board voted to approve $5.7 million in economic incentives to lure the online company here.

Amazon collected their kickback to build a facility here in Utah. This means Bezos was ablet to double dip tax payers by getting a kickback for collecting and the bribe incentive for building here. As I noted on Gab at the time, this should be an embarassement:

Lemme get this right: In 2016, #Utah gives #Amazon sweatheart tax kickback deal unavailable to local retailers if they collect tax on UT residents. Now, Amazon will have location in Utah & have to collect tax anyway.

It sure sounds like Bezos played Herbert: he get’s a tax collection kickback then dupes us for $5.7 mil to build a facility which would require him to collect the tax anyway. Likely, Herbert etc were willing accomplices. This is the type of crap I would like to see end. States are competing with each other to entice corporate welfare business to their state by offering “incentives” on taxpayers’ and local retailers’ backs. It is something the Feds actually have constitutional authority to put a stop to and I wish they would look into doing so.


Addendum: As I said in June, I quit directly buying from Amazon and it’s worked great. I was given some Amazon gift cards so I bought stuff from 3rd party retailers on the site (I’m not just going to give Amazon the $ by not using the card) and have found that many 3rd party retailers have their own sites that offer the same product they’re selling on Amazon cheaper. Plus, I found many online and even local retailers match Amazon prices. I’ve always tried to support the local retailers and this has just furthered it. I encourage you to spend money in your local area, it makes a big difference (especially in rural areas where the internet seems to have really harmed the local mom & pop shops that used to exist in the small towns). Don’t boycott, buycott.