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Bill eliminating sales tax on food to be reintroduced in Utah legislature

Posted at 4:30 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 19:12:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker is bringing back a bill to eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on groceries.

Rep. Judy Weeks-Rohner, R-West Valley City, argues the bill is even more necessary now than it was when she attempted to get it through the legislature earlier this year.

"It’s extremely important right now because with inflation the rate that it is," she told FOX 13 News in an interview on Wednesday. "People feel this every single time they go to the grocery store. They’re reminded about the food tax."

Rep. Weeks-Rohner said people are feeling the impacts of inflation, and eliminating Utah's 1.75% portion of the sales tax on groceries would help. She is not proposing to eliminate local sales tax options.

"We need to get it done. The people are saying we’ve got increasing in gas tax, we can’t make our mortgage, we can’t do our rent payment," she said.

Rep. Weeks-Rohner and Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, both proposed bills to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries in the 2022 legislative session. Despite support from low-income advocates, neither bill got a hearing. But the legislature did advance income tax cuts.

House Speaker Brad Wilson's office said they had no comment on Rep. Weeks-Rohner's bill file. In the past, he has signaled support for the concept (with other budgetary changes). But she said she has already met with Senate Republican leaders in an effort to get some support.

"They’re not for it," she said. "But if we contact the legislators... they can change their mind."

Rep. Weeks-Rohner has applied public pressure on lawmakers in the past. Prior to be elected to the Utah House of Representatives, she was a primary sponsor of a citizen referendum on a massive tax overhaul bill the legislature passed. The referendum was so popular, it forced lawmakers into retreat and the legislature had to repeal the very law they passed the year before.

"If we had not done that referendum, you would be paying 2.78% more on food tax and at least 10 cents more a gallon on gas and that was without inflation," Rep. Weeks-Rohner said. "Take the inflation on that? It’s mind boggling. We need to do something today to stop this to help the people of Utah."

Rep. Weeks-Rohner's Democratic challenger in the upcoming election was also skeptical of the ability for the bill to pass the legislature.

"This is a clear effort to score political points during an election year. The reality is with the Republican supermajority in the legislature, this legislation will not pass. That’s why we need to elect more Democrats – Republicans will simply talk about removing the sales tax on groceries, Democrats will get it done," said Fatima Dirie.

Governor Spencer Cox has supported a grocery tax credit for lower-income Utahns. To help battle inflation, he has also floated the idea of making public transit in the state free to offset high gasoline prices.

However, that idea appears to have stalled. FOX 13 News is told the governor's office continues to have conversations with House and Senate Republican leaders, but nothing is imminent.