Little to report from Utah tax reform task force until town halls start next week

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There wasn’t much to say during the first official report of the Legislature’s Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force to lawmakers on Wednesday.

“No work has been done. Of course, I’m joking,” Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, told the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee. “The task force has had one meeting and in that meeting, the task force announced a schedule.”

Fillmore, a member of the task force and co-chairman of the committee, detailed the task force’s eight town hall meetings around the state scheduled to start in Brigham City on Tuesday and end in Lehi on July 30.

He said on Monday, a task force website will be unveiled.

The task force was created near the end of the 2019 session in March, after legislative leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert decided to scrap a bill imposing new sales taxes on services amid protests from the public.

But it took until early May to appoint the members of the task force and their first — and so far only — meeting was held later in the month, where the town hall meetings were unveiled.

There was more discussion about tax reform during Wednesday’s midday House GOP caucus than during the committee where the progress report was required to be given.

“There’s not a lot to update on this because there hasn’t been a lot of action yet,” House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, told the caucus. “It hasn’t started off as fast, I think, as quickly as what we would have hoped.”

Schultz said that’s because both House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, who serves as task force co-chairman, decided to “slow it down a little bit. Let’s make sure we get it right.”

Once the town hall meetings are completed, Schultz said the task force will get to work considering both old and new ideas about how to deal with a sales tax base that’s shrinking as consumer spending shifts from goods to services.

He said the intent is still to consider a plan from the task force in a special session, even though a number of groups, including the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah, want to wait until the 2020 Legislature.

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