There are SEVEN constitutional amendments on the 2020 ballot! In the last four years, the Legislature has asked voters to consider a total of 13 amendments to the Utah Constitution.
If that seems excessive, it’s because it is! State constitutions are exceptional documents. Utah’s statement of basic principles and laws of our state does not need to be amended so frequently.
But in 2020 there is one proposed amendment that is particularly objectionable, and its wording on the ballot is also misleading.
Amendment G breaks the 74-year tradition of using income taxes to exclusively fund public and higher education. Be advised that the description of this amendment on your ballot does not say “education.” It does not say “tax reform.” But the amendment reduces funding for education up to $600 million per year through a major tax reform proposal. This tax reform proposal is in the state constitution rather than in statute.
For this reason, know what you’re voting on.
This amendment will allow education funding to be used for social services. Agreed, these social services are needed, but should we reduce our overstressed education fund to support other state needs? Utah has been last, dead last in the nation, in per pupil funding for decades. During this pandemic, education expenses have increased, the teacher shortage is more acute, and teachers, students and parents are more stressed than ever.
There are other tax reform options to fund social services and other state needs. For example, eliminate tax exemptions and credits that are no longer justifiable. This alone could add hundreds of millions to the state general fund.
Until we solve our chronic underfunding of education, we should not change the constitutional guarantee of income tax going solely to education.
Remember the Legislature’s tax reform bill that was passed in the waning days of 2019 in a special session? It caused a furor and a referendum signed by thousands of Utah citizens. It was rescinded by the Legislature due to overwhelming public opposition.
Amendment G is a momentous tax reform proposal. It was passed by the Legislature in a mere five working days as was its companion bill, HB 357. HB 357 has the potential to create some stability — except it is a statute which can easily be amended or rescinded at any time without a public vote.
And HB 357 won’t take effect unless Amendment G passes. The Legislature is literally saying there will be no law providing stability in money spent on education unless the public approves Amendment G which undermines constitutionally protected stability in revenue. In other words, they want that education revenue earmark ended once and for all.
This amendment is the public’s last, best opportunity to express our opposition to this precarious education tax reform proposal.
Pay attention to all seven of the constitutional amendments on your ballot. But give careful consideration to Constitutional Amendment G. Although it is cloaked, it is a major tax reform proposal. It eliminates the revenue stability that has been guaranteed by the Utah Constitution for education.
The Legislature needs to go back to the tax reform drawing board. Please vote NO on Amendment G.