SALT LAKE CITY — House Speaker Brad Wilson signaled that discussion on eliminating the state sales tax on food is not completely dead — but it may not be heard this year.
"Still open to having those conversations. It’s probably not this year that that tax cut will come off, but maybe down the road," he told reporters on Friday, later adding: "I don’t like paying the sales tax on food, either. I don’t blame people."
The comments breathed some new life into a bill that has been considered dead on Capitol Hill. Advocates for low-income Utahns have been calling for people to pressure lawmakers to consider a pair of bills to eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on groceries.
"We agree on that one and I’m excited to hear that," Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, said about the House Speaker's comments on disliking paying the sales tax on food.
But Rep. Lesser said she wanted the bill to be heard now — and not later.
"People need relief at this point in time. We all know that inflation is at an all time high or at least for the last 40 years and food prices are on the rise," she said. "People need relief now and this would be the quickest way that we as a legislature can give it to the people of Utah."
Meanwhile, the House is moving forward with a tax cut. The House Revenue & Taxation Committee voted unanimously to advance a Senate bill that cuts the income tax rate to 4.85%. For a family making $72,000 a year, it equates to a $98 break. House Republican leaders acknowledge it's a measured cut.
"It’s going to have some real impacts on real families. We’re still being conservative in what we do with that, we’re going to take a measured approach," said Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, the chair of the committee.
During Friday's hearing, some lawmakers complained the tax cut wasn't deep enough. The bill won over support from Democrats and advocates for low-income Utahns when it was amended to include an earned income tax credit. That change also won the support of Governor Spencer Cox.
"Gov. Cox will do what is needed to help make this happen," said Sophia DiCaro, the director of the Governor's Office of Planning & Budget.
She said the earned income tax credit would provide some Utah families as much as $200 back. The House also tucked in a tax cut on Social Security income.
The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives for a vote.