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Grassroots Group Seeks Referendum to Halt Utah Tax Bill

A bipartisan group of volunteers is gathering signatures across the state to put a referendum on the November ballot to negate a tax reform package approved by the Utah Legislature. (mokee81/Adobe Stock)
A bipartisan group of volunteers is gathering signatures across the state to put a referendum on the November ballot to negate a tax reform package approved by the Utah Legislature. (mokee81/Adobe Stock)
January 10, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY - A grassroots group of Utah voters is under a tight deadline to put a referendum on the ballot to nullify a tax-reform package approved by state lawmakers.

The Republican-controlled Utah Legislature passed a package of tax-code changes in a December special session - but a recent ''UtahPolicy.com' poll' poll shows two out of three Utahns oppose major portions of it.

That has brought together the Utah 2019 Tax Coalition, aiming to negate the bill with a November referendum.

Judy Weeks Rohner is co-organizer of the group. She says they represent almost every county in the state, and object to cuts to education funding and increases in the state tax on food.

They also know their work is cut out for them.

"You have to collect 116,000 signatures throughout the state, and we have to have at least 15 counties," says Rohner. "So, we're on our way of doing that. We've got several counties that have met the objectives, but we've got a long ways to go and a short time to do it."

Forces behind Senate Bill 2001, the tax-reform package, include the governor, legislative leaders and the Utah Taxpayers Association. They say the state's tax policies were antiquated and the new measures are designed to head off a future financial crisis.

Rohner counters that the Legislature is out of touch with the majority of Utahns.

"People are dissatisfied," says Rohner. "They feel that legislators have not listened to them and they want a voice. So, by doing this referendum, it will be on the ballot in November. It stops the law as it was written and allows the people to have a voice."

Rohner says the group's efforts are bipartisan and that it's made up of people across the entire spectrum of Utah voters. She would not say how close they are to collecting all the necessary signatures, but is optimistic they will succeed.

"It is a phenomenal thing that's happening," says Rohner. "You've got every political entity, religious entity - and they may not have the same ideas about your political views, but they do have one thing in common. They hate this bill."

Referendum backers must have their signatures gathered and submitted by January 21 in order to stop the tax bill from going into effect and put the referendum on the November ballot.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT