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Cox signs bills offering millions in tax cuts

Posted at 3:47 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 19:42:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox signed a series of bills enacting tax cuts and credits designed to offer some relief for Utahns facing rising costs from inflation.

"It’s not just in one area," the governor told a crowd at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday. "It’s in lots of different areas that will benefit every person in our state in some way."

One major bill enacts a modest income tax cut, a Social Security income tax cut, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and adds an unborn child exemption. For the average Utah family making roughly $80,000 a year? The income tax cut equates to roughly $200 a year back. While that may not sound like a lot, the governor told reporters that "every dollar makes a difference and I think you have to look at all of these tax cuts together."

On the unborn exemption, Gov. Cox referenced Utah's abortion laws.

"We talk about being a pro-life state, we believe in life, and I felt if we’re going to give a tax exemption for a child that is born, we should give a tax exemption for the unborn child as well," he said.

The income tax bill also removes the state portion of the sales tax on food — contingent upon Utah voters approving a proposed constitutional amendment in 2024 that allows the legislature to dip into the earmark for education on the income tax. Negotiations with education groups are ongoing about the precise language, but the latest version creates a funding formula for public schools while preserving the earmark and letting lawmakers dip into it as needed to address other budget needs.

Gov. Cox, who has supported removing the sales tax on food, urged Utah voters to take the deal offered by the legislature.

"I just want to use this moment to encourage the people of Utah to vote to remove the sales tax on food. I think this is good for everyone, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet," he said.

Gov. Cox also signed bills enacting new tax credits for adoption, utility bill assistance and property tax breaks for veterans. Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, sponsored a bill to expand child tax credits.

"That tax money they would have given in a state income tax, they can use that any way they choose. They can use that for child care," she told FOX 13 News on Wednesday.

The governor also signed a bill that offers some relief from high gas prices.

"It reduces the gas tax by two cents, which doesn’t seem like a lot but it does provide $25 million of tax relief to residents of the state," said House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, who sponsored the legislation.

That same bill imposes a 12.5% tax on electric vehicle charging stations. That's designed to address a problem lawmakers have grappled with: electric vehicles are becoming more popular but they don't actually pay for the roads they use. The gasoline tax, which is earmarked for road repairs, has been declining in recent years as people buy more fuel-efficient vehicles and EVs.

Rep. Schultz said it is only fair that EVs pay for roads they use.

"All that money goes directly into the roads to help pay for our roads," he said of the bill.

Some tax watchdog groups have complained the Utah State Legislature didn't go far enough with tax cuts this year, especially given Utah's booming economy. But many left Wednesday's ceremony still happy with what the governor did sign into law.

"Tax cuts are so important," said Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum. "Our families are overtaxed, way overtaxed."