Representative Rosemary Lesser calls for an end to the sales tax on groceries | News, Sports, Jobs
OGDEN – In late 2019, Rosemary Lesser joined many others across the state in pushing for a referendum to overturn a tax review approved by Utah lawmakers, which included an increase in the sales tax on grocery products.
The controversial measure, approved in a special legislative session in December 2019, would have increased the tax on groceries from 1.75% to 4.85%. This, the Ogden wife and other critics charged, would have hit low-income Utahns particularly hard, despite other provisions lowering income taxes.
In the end, lawmakers repealed the overhaul, yielding to pressure from Lesser and other enemies. Now, however, Lesser – no longer just a civilian lobby for change but a member of the Utah House – wants to go further. She plans to introduce legislation in the next session of 2022 to completely remove the 1.75% sales tax on groceries.
Cities and counties can impose a sales tax on groceries of up to 1% and 0.25%, respectively, which would not be affected by the plans.
âFor people on fixed incomes, people who belong to lower economic groups, they spend up to a third, sometimes more, of their income to provide these essentials,â Lesser said. As such, the sales tax hits them harder than the wealthier Utahns, who don’t spend so much of their income on food – and that, Lesser says, is unfair.
Photo provided, Utah House
Last September, she publicly revealed her intention to push for an end to the tax in a letter to the editor of the Standard-Examiner. On Wednesday, a coalition of Democratic lawmakers and community advocates launched the campaign to end the tax, holding a press conference in Salt Lake City to publicize the plans in Utah.
âAnything we can do to cut food costs will help the people we serve,â said Bill Tibbitts, deputy executive director of Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit that runs custody. -eat and support efforts. “We are trying to make people understand that it is possible.”
Reverend Kim James of Ogden’s First United Methodist Church, currently located in Marriott-Slaterville, noted that Utah is one of a minority of US states that tax groceries. âIt just doesn’t make sense to tax food,â James said.
She also agrees to end the tax, seeing it as a way to help those who need it most, and attended Wednesday’s press conference. Utah Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost and Utah Senator Luz Escamilla also attended, while Lesser, who was traveling for Thanksgiving vacation, did not. All three lawmakers are Democrats.
According to the Tax Policy Center, 37 states and Washington, DC, do not tax grocery products. Utah is one of six states that tax food at a lower rate than other products, while seven states tax food at the same rate as other items.
A report released last month by the Food Security Task Force found that 10% of Utah households are “food insecure” and more than 102,000 Utah families lack the resources. necessary to buy the food they need. The working group looked into the issue in relation to the 2020 legislation introduced by Escamilla.
“AN ACCOUNTABLE TAX”
Eliminating the tax would not necessarily have to take a heavy toll in the State of Utah’s coffers.
According to Lesser, the Utah sales tax on food generates about $ 140 million per year. But she noted that the change that came into effect in 2019 requiring online retailers to collect taxes on their sales has generated around $ 95 million per quarter as of late.
At the same time, James noted the federal funding that Utah, like other states, has received to help counter the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this funding available to the state, 2022 is the year of change, she argues.
Tibbitts expects a lot of debate on the issue in the future. âI think it’s definitely going to be something people talk about,â he said. âIt’s an unpopular tax.
Lesser, meanwhile, believes it is a proposal with bipartisan support. âSometimes it’s just a matter of timing and I think the time is right,â she said.