Statement Opposing “Our Schools Now” Tax Increase

June 6, 2017  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Salt Lake City, UT (June 6, 2017) — Today, a group calling themselves “Our Schools Now” announced the filing of a ballot initiative that, if successful, would increase the income and sales tax rates of hard-working and already over-taxed Utahns.

In response, Libertas Institute’s Director of Policy Michael Melendez issued the following statement:

The corporate elite of Utah have finally decided how they want to reach into taxpayers’ pockets, and, instead of offering any real solutions, they remain committed to the same worn-out, disproven tax hike band-aid.

Additional funding to government schools must be tied to a real change in the philosophy of education in classrooms.

This income and sales tax hike will hit lower- and middle-class Utahns the hardest at a time when their tax burden has increased substantially in recent years, such as for gas, property, and purchases.

We need to have a real discussion in Utah about the priorities for the state’s $16 billion budget. Instead, this initiative will be a major distraction—and one that existing data suggests will not actually increase education outcomes, as its proponents claim.

Libertas Institute’s president, Connor Boyack, has separately written about how past increases in education funding have not led to better outcomes.

Should enough signatures be gathered to place this issue on the ballot, our organization intends to educate Utah voters as to why this harmful tax increase will not lead to the promises and claims made by its supporters.

Here’s five free-market victories from the legislature

March 21, 2017  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  One comment

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.

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Tax Commission Keeps Amazon Tax Agreement Confidential

January 17, 2017  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Salt Lake City, UT (January 17, 2017) — Last month, Libertas Institute filed a GRAMA request seeking a copy of the “confidential” tax agreement between the State of Utah and Amazon. The request was denied.

We appealed the decision to the executive director of the Utah State Tax Commission and yesterday received a denial, citing 63G-2-305(1) and (2)—provisions of GRAMA law that allow the government to keep a document “protected” for reasons of protecting “trade secrets” or avoiding “competitive injury.” See the denial here.

The following statement may be attributed to Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute:

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Prosecutors Aim to Sabotage Forfeiture Reform

November 17, 2016  |  Posted in: Center for Private Property  |  No comments

Police and prosecutors continue to fight efforts to reform civil asset forfeiture—a law allowing them to take property from innocent people not charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.

In the last legislative session, prosecutors got the police to issue a highly misleading letter to the legislature hours before a key vote. A second letter issued doubles down on the attempt to misrepresent facts in order to protect a policy that makes prosecutor’s jobs easier.

Following a poll revealing that 86% of Utah voters oppose civil asset forfeiture, and a significant outreach effort by Libertas Institute to the public, pressure has increased to once again attempt to reform the law. (And now we have the unfortunate distinction of lagging behind California on the issue…)

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It’s time to privatize the government liquor stores

October 11, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  One comment

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

The recent audit by the state auditor into the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control continues to tell what all of us know: that government does a poor job of running a business.

Poor management, poor pay, and poor morale are all engrained as part of the DABC, even after several high-profile reboots. The idea that government can somehow fix the very problems that it has created stretches credulity to the breaking point.

And with a government monopoly, DABC isn’t responding to the market, where demand is clearly exceeding supply. More stores are needed to satisfy the demand, according to one recent study, yet cities don’t want them and DABC, a government entity, is only willing to build where they are welcomed with open arms by city leaders.

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Governor Herbert Receives “D” Grade for Fiscal Policy

October 5, 2016  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  No comments

Salt Lake City, UT (October 5, 2016) — A new report released this morning by the Cato Institute grades each state’s governor on fiscal policy and state budget actions since 2014. Governor Gary Herbert received a “D” grade, coming in at number 33 among the 50 states for best fiscal policy.

The report notes that Herbert’s low grade “stems mainly from his large spending increases”—a seven percent increase to the general fund budget in 2015 and more than a nine percent increase in 2016. State government employment has dramatically risen during Herbert’s time in office, growing 20 percent since he became governor in 2009.

The report comes on the heels of the Institute’s “50 Freest States” report, which ranked Utah the 20th best state for fiscal policy.

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William Penn and the Fight for Religious Freedom

August 14, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  One comment

Students of history understand how precious religious freedom can be, since governments of ages past so often tended to regulate and restrict a person’s religious behavior and belief. In America, the freedom of religion can be traced in part to the bold civil disobedience of William Penn, 346 years ago today.

portrait_tAmericans are familiar with Penn as the founder of the province of Pennsylvania, a colonial refuge for religious dissidents. But his contribution to the cause of religious freedom came many years before his migration.

Despite being born into a distinguished Anglican family as the son of an Admiral, young William decided to join the Religious Society of Friends, or “Quakers,” at the age of 22. Two years later he wrote a pamphlet titled “Truth Exalted,” in which he criticized all religious groups except Quakers. He soon thereafter published his second, titled “Sandy Foundation Shaken,” a doctrinal critique of the Trinity. This led the Bishop of London to order Penn to be indefinitely detained until he publicly recanted his fiery theological attack.

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New Poll: Half of Utahns Affected by Prescription Drug Overdoses

July 28, 2016  |  Posted in: 2016 Bills  |  No comments

Every month in Utah, 24 individuals die from overdosing on legal, prescription drugs. This alarming trend ranked Utah as 4th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths from 2012-2014, outpacing deaths from firearms, falls, and motor vehicle crashes.

A new poll shows that this trend has affected the lives of nearly half of all Utahns. According to the poll, 47% of Utahns personally know somebody who is addicted to, or has overdosed on, prescription drugs. These overdoses have increased by 400% from 2000 to 2014.

The Utah Legislature went to great lengths in this past session to address this issue, passing five pieces of legislation addressing the opiate overdose issue, and committing taxpayer dollars to establishing the programs affected by these new laws.

The same group of legislators failed to pass legislation legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis.

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Announcing Audrey Mortensen, Our New Policy Analyst

July 19, 2016  |  Posted in: Blog  |  2 comments

As Libertas Institute’s success rate continues to climb, and as our portfolio of policy work keeps expanding, our need to hire additional staff members grows. As such, we are excited to announce a new policy analyst joining the Libertas team!

Audrey Mortensen brings a wealth of experience to this position, having worked for several years in related fields. Most recently, she worked in New Mexico both in the governor’s office and the Republican Leadership office in a variety of capacities—legislative analysis, constituent liasing, office management, event planning, and more. Audrey comes recommended with extremely high praise from those she worked with in these offices, all of whom commended her for her excellent work and great personality.

Before that she worked for the Republican Party in New Mexico, training and managing hundreds of volunteers and interns, and for the Republican National Committee, helping with fundraising and finances.

Audrey is a graduate of the University of Utah, where she double majored in political science and international relations, also receiving a business minor. While in school, she interned at the Utah Legislature and the Scottish Parliament.

Send Audrey an email at

With this new hire, Josh Daniels—who has previously been serving as policy analyst—has been promoted to Director of Policy.

Arbitrary Animal Limits: Farmington as a Model Example

July 15, 2016  |  Posted in: Center for Private Property  |  No comments

Last year, we released the Freest Cities report—a first-of-its-kind analysis of city laws and fees for the top 50 most populous cities throughout Utah. One of the metrics we analyzed was that of animal ownership, helping residents understand how many animals their cities legally allow them to have (and, by extension, what the city has prohibited).

In many cities, the law imposes an arbitrary limit of ownership. For example, assuming a standard starter home in a single family residential zone, Lehi residents can have two dogs, Logan lets you have four, whereas North Ogden only allows a single dog.

There is no data that supports these numerical restrictions. Three small dogs might make less noise than one large one, for example. The potential impact to neighbors is not mitigated properly by imposing a cap. And, of course, it turns peaceful residents into criminals when they, as prudent caretakers of animals, exceed the limit but create no negative burden on their neighbors.

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