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Friday, August 11, 2006

Something to Chew On

The Senate Majority will hold a special caucus meeting, probably in early September, to discuss the latest tax proposals.
Salt Lake Tribune: Guv may call special session on a tax deal

Deseret Morning News: Tackling taxes, transit

Out of Context: Breaking Rules

Deseret Morning News: Will Utah tax cut climb to 120 million?

Salt Lake Tribune: $70 million tax cut could become $120 million

Out of Context: Leading Out

[Update] Saturday’s Tribune: Special session runs into skeptics
Big decisions. Please leave your comments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance this money can go towards education? It seems like we've got a bunch of extra cash and a very under-funded educational system in Utah. Why are we talking mass transit and soccer stadiums?

8/11/2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger Natalie said...

I agree - any income tax cuts should be minimal, and public and higher education should receive what I see as their due. I hope the legislature decides to leave the income tax cut at $70 million during the special, and then discuss any additional cuts during the general, when there will be more time for discussion and debate.

8/12/2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the Utah Foundation's report, "Paradox Lost," Utah is making a middling effort to fund our children's education at well below the rate of any other state in the union. We are sending a very clear message to business that education is not a priority in the state of Utah. Out higher education enrollment is down, the current enabling of non-resident Utah high school graduates to attend college with in-state tuition is being threatened, and women are not graduating from universities at the rate expected.
Yes, public education is insatiable when it comes to asking for money but in Utah, it asks only to be adequately funded. The fact that a family friendly state like Utah is last in per pupil funding in the nation should be a source of unbearable shame. Please rectify this status with allowing our money to go to our children.

8/13/2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger Reach Upward said...

I'm not sure why people think that per-pupil funding is any kind of measure of educational quality. Studies show that there is no direct correlation in this. Rather, it's how education dollars are spent.

Today we spend more than 450% in inflation-adjusted Dollars per student than we did in 1960, and yet our outcomes in core subjects are worse. Could this be due to the fact that we are spending our money ineffectively? No, of course not. We just need more money, right?

Let's face it; there will *never* be sufficient money for the folks that run Utah's educational autocracy. Instead of chucking more cash into education willy-nilly, we need to address more effective methods of applying the cash that is currently being spent.

Utah's real percentages of income collected in taxes (and fees) has increased quite a bit over the past two decades. It's time to put that money back into the hands of the people that pay it. Let's put the taxpayer first this round.

8/14/2006 11:44 AM  
Anonymous change required said...

It is patently disgusting that you hold closed caucus meetings. Is a 3:1 majority not large enough? We're all Utahns and we expect and deserve openness and transparency. Use your meeting in September as the start of a new chapter in Utah politics.

8/14/2006 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please listen!

8/15/2006 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Skeptic said...


Is there any scientific basis to the KCPW sample?

I'm sure Valentine and Curtis could go around and record people saying "Yes, I want a tax cut."

8/16/2006 7:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Johnson said...


I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that I'm the Lisa you are addressing, since I posted the KCPW link on my own blog. Although I find the clip very interesting, I'm not the one who posted it here. FYI--I don't make anonymous posts. When I post something you'll know who you are disagreeing with. :)

But to your comment...
I don't think the radio station was going for a scientific study. They were just getting a feel for the "word on the street" in the same way that television news reporters interview passers-by. There are scientific polls out there, though:

1. A Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones in January 2006 found that 48% of respondents favored spending the surplus on higher ed. and public ed., and a total of 72% favored spending on services (including education, human services, and transportation) compared to only 21% who favored "substantial tax cuts to Utah residents and businesses." One of the most interesting aspects of this poll is that a higher percentage of Republicans (51%) than Democrats (48%) said that the surplus should go to education. Read the report here: http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,635174740,00.html

2. A previous poll by the same folks (June 2005) yielded similar results, with 63% strongly or somewhat favoring spending the surplus on state needs and only 29% strongly or somewhat favoring tax cuts. Read the report here: http://deseretnews.com/dn/print/1,1442,600142566,00.html

3. In a BYU Utah Voter Poll (Feb. 2006), 72% of respondents said that ALL or MOST of the surplus "should be kept by the state and used to pay for education, transportation, and other state priorities." (You have to read through the study responses to find this number because the summary at the beginning curiously ignores the 31.6% who said "all" of the surplus should be used this way.) Only 4.1% said that "ALL of the surplus should be given back to taxpayers. Read the report here: http://utahvoterpoll.org/results/Feb%202006%20Utah%20Voter%20Poll%20Results%20update.pdf

4. A Jordan School District poll conducted by Dan Jones and Associates in January of 2006 asked the questions a little differently. 77% of respondents said they would favor increased funding for Jordan District Schools, and (this one is the kicker) 72% said they were willing to pay for increased funding.

You're right in suggesting that a scientific study should mean more than sound bites and anecdotes. It's an important reason not to rush into a tax cut at election time without fully considering the implications. Tax reform is an important matter. Reducing it to "tax cut good, spending bad" ignores the nuances of a complex system and robs our representatives of the oppourtunity (and responsibility) to make truly informed decisions.

8/16/2006 11:35 PM  
Anonymous Skeptic said...

Polls are becoming less reliable since many people are only using cell phones these days, and pollsters like Dan Jones do not have access to lists of cell phone numbers.

Dan Jones gets the easy races right (unopposed Republicans running for dogcatcher in Springville). He really blew it on Initiative 1 in 2004. As soon as the polls closed, he predicted Initiative 1 would pass by 10%, but it failed by 10%.

Finally, relying on polls to make an argument is not what I would expect from my representative. Are you going to base all of your postions on polls? Why should Sandy and Draper elect someone who is just going to look at polls?

If you are elected, are you going to tell people "I went to KCPW's website and they recorded conversations with people in downtown SLC."

Politicians refer to polls when it suits their needs and ignore them when they don't.

8/17/2006 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Skeptic said...

Ever notice how some poliitcal candidates get paranoid when they realize that their constituents are scrutinizing what they say?

8/18/2006 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Skeptic said...

Whoops! Political, not poliitcal

8/18/2006 7:30 AM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

Skeptic - Scrutiny can certainly make guy more careful. I'm just glad people are interested and paying attention.

Thanks for the informed comments. You too, Reach Upward.

Natalie - it looks like you may get your wish.

8/31/2006 10:24 PM  
Blogger The Senate Site said...

We received an E-mail today from "Capitol Gadfly" asking if he (or she) could post a guest blog. The answer is no (mostly because I haven't thought through the policy of posting anonymous guest blogs) but the Gadfly brought up some points worth considering. I'll add it to the discussion here.

>>> "Capitol Gadfly" capitol.gadfly@hotmail.com 08/31/06 6:16 PM >>>

Tax Cuts vs. Education Funding

Some legislators are facing a real quandary. They want to force taxpayers
to take a tax cut they don’t want. According to a recent poll, Utah
taxpayers want the legislature to spend their tax money on education – not a
tax cut. And, make no mistake about it, because income taxes are
constitutionally earmarked for public education, a cut in income taxes is a
cut in education funding.

Tax cutters say that lower tax rates will attract more business to the
state. But, experts say that business is more interested in good government
services, including education, than they are in discounted taxes. Cutting
taxes to attract jobs is like dropping room rates at a budget motel to
attract customers. If already low rates are dropped, the motel will find
itself unable to keep up on maintenance, hire qualified staff, and provide
services customers demand. Pretty soon, instead of increasing visitation,
the motel has fewer customers than it had before and it begins to spiral
into bankruptcy and foreclosure. What business will want to locate here and
force its employees’ children to endure the largest class sizes in the
nation? Which out-of-state parents, in today’s highly competitive world
economy, see Utah’s public schools as a place where their children will get
a leg up on the rest of the country?

The state’s own economic development director says that the biggest obstacle
he faces in attracting business to Utah is the image others have of our
state. How is starving K-12 education in our state going to improve Utah’s

Tax cut or reduction in class size reduction? The governor will say we can
have both. We could reduce class size in grades K-3 by 3.5 students for $70
million. By the time the special session is over, legislators will have
likely have cut taxes back twice that amount. Utah will be trading a
guaranteed reduction in class size of 7 students for a hoped for increase by
an unknown amount in business development.

If we were to practice truth in advertising, we would place a caveat after
the new state slogan: “Life elevated – school funding sunk.” The Utah
Foundation recently reported that the effort Utah puts forth funding public
schools has dramatically declined over the past ten years. Not satisfied
with dropping from fifth in the nation to 27th in funding effort, the
legislature and governor are poised to slash taxes and drop Utah even
further down the list. Slashing taxes will only cement Utah’s place at the
bottom of the per pupil funding list.

Some say that we need to plan ahead for slower economic times. Yes, the
economy will inevitably slow down. But, if we don’t invest in our
children’s education in good economic times, when will we? Also, isn’t it
poor planning to cut education funding when we are facing a tidal wave of
new students flooding our schools over the next decade?

One also has to ask: why now? Why do we have to have a special session of
the legislature in September to cut taxes? Why can’t this wait until
January? A tax cutting session so close to an election is indecent. Even
if motives are pure, no one can fail to see the appearance of impropriety.

The governor appears to be creating a false crisis. Why is it so “terribly
important,” to pass a tax cut now? What is this window of “a few weeks”
that the governor says we must jump through? What happens if we wait until
January or February to make this decision? A politician will rush a tax
cut. A statesman will deliberate and weigh all the options before making a

Let’s not sacrifice education funding on the alter of economic development.
Let’s not ply the false gods of industry with reductions in school funding.
Let’s wait and judiciously weigh the use of taxpayer money by considering
all the options and not just the shortsighted ones.

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8/31/2006 10:50 PM  

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