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The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published this past weekend in the Salt Lake Tribune.

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” quipped Gideon Tucker, a judge in New York, in 1866. Each year, the Utah Legislature offers abundant evidence of the truthfulness of this judicial observation.

As noted in Jonathan Johnson’s op-ed today, the Legislature passed several tax increases, reflecting an entitlement mentality that pervades the Capitol — the state must get what it’s due.

In what might be called conservative cognitive dissonance, the same elected officials who pick-pocketed Utahns also enacted laws that freed up the market. And while it’s easy to criticize those who incrementally siphon away our hard-earned income, we should also pause to praise the positive outcomes that will help thousands of Utahns.

Read more »

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
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Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

When Senate Bill 255 was originally published, it contained a long overdue process to put a freeze on the flow of dedicated public K-12 education funding to higher education institutions. Unfortunately the powerful higher education lobby quickly shut down that idea and instead this bill has been replaced with a much worse proposal: a property tax increase!

Senator Howard Stephenson is sponsoring SB 255 as a way to raise funds for public education. While his original intention was good (and we agree that higher education should no longer receive support through the income tax), this revised bill hits Utah taxpayers with another tax increase. Specifically, the bill freezes the rate of the basic property levy for 5 years, which will cause an effective property tax increase of $20 million.

Instead of fiddling with the tax code to try and please the Our Schools Now initiative (which seeks to raise $750 million for public education through new taxes on Utahns), the Utah Legislature should look at ways to apply disruptive innovation to the archaic learning model that continues to inhabit government schools. Utahns have suffered through too many tax increases (including a $75 million property tax increase) in the last few years and now is not the time to implement another.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

At a time when it seems like everyone is talking about raising every tax you can think of (income, food, internet sales, tourism, gas, property, etc.), very few are looking for ways to improve Utah’s economy by creating a more business friendly environment. As new businesses are created, existing businesses locate facilities in Utah, and new jobs are created, the amount of tax revenue for Utah increases without any need to raise taxes.

Using an elective single sales factor for corporate income taxes is one promising idea for creating a more business friendly climate in Utah. Since complete elimination of the state corporate income tax is a non-starter, this type of tax policy is a great step in the right direction.

Companies that choose to use the single sales factor would pay state corporate income taxes based on the amount of sales they make in Utah. This attracts new companies to locate in Utah if they rely mostly on exporting goods to other states or around the world. These exporting companies are typically high wage companies like manufacturers, IT, mining, and other basic industry.

Representative Dan McCay is sponsoring House Bill 377 this year to implement a single sales factor that companies could choose instead of using the evenly weighted three-factor formula to calculate state corporate income tax. This change in tax policy will help Utah remain competitive with other states that are also reconsidering their formulas for state corporate income taxes.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In 2015, along with the Utah Taxpayers Association, we sued the state seeking to overturn a clearly unconstitutional law requiring disclosure of information about our donors. With the help of the great attorneys at the Center for Competitive Politics, who represented our organizations in this lawsuit, we were able to come to a a settlement with the state of Utah.

House Bill 43, passed by the legislature in 2013, was sponsored in response to a political consultant’s illegal use of non-profit organizations to hide the identity of the source of his donors—from the payday lending industry—to fund a negative campaign against Representative Brad Daw, who had sought to regulate the industry’s practices. The bill passed the Senate 20-8 and passed the House 60-13.

The law compelled private non-profit organizations—such as Libertas Institute—to publicly disclose the personal information of their donors when the organization spends $750 or more on political activity in a single year. This created a substantial chilling effect, harming our potential to raise funds from people who may not wish to be publicly identified with their ideological and financial support, whether for family, business, religious, or personal reasons.

In response to the settlement, Senator Lyle Hillyard has agreed to sponsor Senate Bill 275 to repeal HB 43 in its entirety so that the statute will reflect the agreed settlement. As the floor sponsor for HB 43, we applaud him for his willingness to correct the law.

You can read further about our arguments against HB 43 in an op-ed we co-authored with our co-plaintiff in the Salt Lake Tribune.

The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published this past weekend in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Chances are you’ve seen the billboards asking Utahns to “Stop the Opidemic.” This marketing effort aims to help people understand that the opiate overdose crisis has reached epidemic levels.

The program is well-intentioned, and opiates pose a significant problem. Utah has an alarmingly high number of deaths due to these addictive and dangerous drugs. On average, 24 Utahns die every single month from overdosing on opiates. Something needs to change.

But is the marketing campaign the right way to effect real change?

Read more »

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Utah’s “Zion Curtain” law compels restaurants to create an opaque barrier between where patrons sit and where alcoholic drinks are mixed. Proponents argue this is beneficial and necessary in order to keep children from seeing said alcohol. Previous reform efforts have stalled, in part because the legislature is unwilling to substantively reform Utah’s alcohol laws without the agreement of the LDS Church, which has supported the “Zion Curtain.”

Yet for all the complaints over this policy, it actually applies only to a minority of restaurants. When the law was passed in 2009, all existing restaurants were grandfathered in and therefore did not have to create the barrier.

That would all change under House Bill 442, sponsored by Representative Brad Wilson, which would eliminate the exemption and compel all restaurants that serve alcohol to choose between either the “Zion Curtain” or a newly established “Zion Moat” which requires “at least 10 feet from any area where alcoholic product is dispensed to the dining area and any waiting area, measured from the point of the area where alcoholic product is dispensed that is closest to the dining area or waiting area.”

In other words, restaurants have to either install a costly barrier to hide the booze or rearrange their interior such that tables are further than 10 feet away from the bar.

The bill also includes a number of other changes, including a 2% increase in the already steep tax imposed upon alcoholic beverages. For example, the tax on spirits goes from 86% to 88%. (If you’re in the military, you’re in luck—the legislature caps the markup to soldiers at a comparatively low 17%.)

Utah’s confusing, arbitrary, and unjust alcohol laws need major reforms, but this bill complicates matters in a negative way. Many restaurants enjoy a freedom under existing law that would be removed, compelling them all to create unnecessary barriers at a significant cost. We oppose this bill.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | No comments

SB 250: Food Truck Freedom

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

In a public policy brief late last year, we outlined the many regulatory burdens faced by food truck owners throughout Utah as a result of duplicative and redundant ordinances and fees required of them by city governments.

To respond to this concern, Senator Deidre Henderson has sponsored Senate Bill 250, which would streamline these regulations, eliminate redundancy, and prohibit problematic city regulations.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • establish a reciprocity system so food truck owners don’t have to obtain a business license in each city in which they desire to operate;
  • prohibit cities from establishing protectionist boundaries around restaurants in which food trucks are denied the opportunity to operate;
  • prohibit cities from denying a business license for a food truck on the basis of the applicant’s criminal history;
  • require that counties honor health and fire permits issued in other counties; and
  • streamline event permits and other regulations.

This is a great start towards freeing up the market for food truck owners who currently struggle to succeed.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

In 2015, the Utah Legislature passed HB 362 which not only raised the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon, but also authorized counties to place a .25% sales and use tax increase on the November 2015 ballot in order to fund local transportation projects and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). When the dust settled, 10 counties passed the increase.

Now Representative Brad Daw is resurrecting the concept with House Bill 367 which would allow cities and townships whose counties did not (and do not plan to) implement the tax increase to place a .10% sales and use tax increase on the ballot in order to fund local transportation projects.

If local municipalities truly were in such need of funding for transportation, then they should find ways to adjust their budgets to find the funding they need. Lavish recreation centers, golf courses, and fitness equipment are just some of items that cities sometimes prioritize above needed transportation projects. At a time when Utah taxpayers are already dealing with numerous new taxes and facing still more, another sales tax increase is unnecessary and irresponsible.

The following counties could be affected:

Beaver
Box Elder
Cache
Daggett
Emery
Garfield
Iron
Juab
Kane
Millard
Morgan
Piute
Salt Lake
Summit
Uintah
Utah
Wasatch
Washington
Wayne

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill.

Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Senator Jake Anderegg, forces companies to adopt and disclose to employees a written policy that is used by the employer to determine how employees are compensated, or which benefits are provided, based on the employee’s performance. The sponsor’s intent is to address the issue of women not being paid as much as men for similar work.

The mandate applies to companies that employ 15 or more individuals in Utah for 20 or more weeks of the year.

The bill also prohibits employers from changing the criteria in these policies within six months of when they apply to an employee, to delay the ability of an employer to change the compensation expectations of each employee.

Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Workforce Services to “conduct a study that analyzes any difference in pay between men and women in the state” and present the findings to the legislature. The department is also required to “create and maintain an index of the current pay range for individuals employed in [each] occupation in the state.” Finally, the department is required to (using taxpayer dollars) “conduct an advertising campaign to promote the availability and utility” of the index.

It is not the proper role of government to compel a business owner to adopt and disclose a compensation policy, nor is it a justified use of taxpayer dollars to study and catalog employee wages, nor conduct an advertising campaign of the same.

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker.
Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or
click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill.

One of the largest factors driving up health care costs today is the lack of transparency of the true costs of health care services and the lack of incentives for consumers to pursue high quality, low-cost options. Representative Norm Thurston has an idea to change that dramatically.

The first substitute of House Bill 127 authorizes insurance companies to create savings reward programs. This would allow a member of a health benefit plan to shop for low cost options, while receiving financial incentives when the final cost of a service ends up being lower than the average cost of that particular health care service. It is important to note that this does not mandate insurance companies to comply with this law.

HB 127 does mandate that PEHP, Utah’s public employee insurance program, create these savings reward programs to allow government employees to shop for low cost options. The success of similar public employee programs in other states has led private consumers to urge their own insurance programs to offer similar services.

Often, the costs of health care services vary drastically from one provider to the next. Programs and tools that encourage average citizens to weigh their health care options and consider cheaper avenues will help lower the costs of health care over time for everyone. If HB 127 passes, it might not be too long before you see innovative services like this one from New Hampshire appear in Utah.

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