Proposed tax hike to fund education dies in House committee

Posted at 7:25 PM, Feb 02, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- A proposal to increase taxes to fund education in Utah was soundly defeated at the Capitol Monday.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, said the hike would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in needed funding to schools.

Draxler argued Utah is losing too many teachers to neighboring states that pay better, but critics who addressed a House education committee said a tax hike was not the way to do this.

The bill was defeated in an 11-2 vote.

"I'm disappointed, probably not too surprised because a tax increase is really tough for people to come to terms with,” Draxler said. “So, I am disappointed but I probably anticipated this. But I think this is a discussion that needs to go on."

The proposal called for increasing the personal state income tax by half a percent, taking it from 5 to 5.5 percent.

Draxler said the increase would raise more than $400 million annually for education -- his bill specified that it would be used in large part to fund performance based salary increases for teachers, as well as raise the base salary for teachers.

The tax hike would have meant a family of four with a home living on a median income, would pay about $288 more in taxes each year.

Critics who addressed the committee said a tax hike was not the way to do this.

"A half a percent increase will slow that activity. It sends a message to businesses and potential employees who want to relocate here to stay out of Utah,” said Bill Hesterman with Utah Taxpayers Association. “Essentially, it's hanging a closed for business sign on the state."