Libertas Institute Op-Eds

Income Tax Increase Won’t Improve Education Outcomes

December 6, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

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

A group of business owners and former politicians have announced a plan to pursue a ballot initiative that—were it to pass—would increase each Utahn’s income tax rate. The proposal, pitched as a way to help children, is saturated in misleading messaging and is ultimately unnecessary.

“Our Schools Now” is a new label for a group of politically connected insiders, led by Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson, a behind-the-scenes influencer in Utah politics. They recently announced their initiative proposal, telling the public that they are seeking only a “7/8 of 1 percent increase” to the personal income tax.

This is misleading because it lacks context—it makes it seem like a numerically insignificant amount. In reality, that seemingly tiny amount constitutes a 17.5% increase on each Utahn’s income tax burden.

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Let’s repeal the vehicle safety inspection law

October 31, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

The following op-ed, written by our policy analyst Audrey Mortenseon, was published this week in the Deseret News.

The Cato Institute’s recent ranking of state laws puts Utah in the top ten for least burdensome regulatory policies. Out of those ten states, however, Utah is the only one that still mandates vehicle safety inspections.

Only 15 other states mandate vehicle safety inspections — most of them liberal eastern states — and these are ranked among the lowest in the nation for imposing the heaviest regulatory burdens. Utah should join all the other western states by repealing this program, saving Utah drivers a combined $25 million per year.

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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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Pleasant Grove’s body cameras should stay on

October 5, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published this week in the Daily Herald.

In an age of increasing transparency, Pleasant Grove is choosing to go dark.

A recent article in the Daily Herald claims that the city’s law enforcement agency was “forced to stop using” body cameras, which “strikes a blow to police investigative work and protection of officers and citizens.” This claim is flagrantly false; the city is choosing of its own accord to stop using cameras.

A law recently passed by the Utah Legislature, which Libertas Institute proposed along with ACLU Utah and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, establishes new requirements for law enforcement agencies using body cameras in order to ensure they are used properly. Among other things, the law requires officers to record a law enforcement encounter in “in an uninterrupted manner” to document their interactions with the public.

Obviously, documenting these interactions creates a large amount of digital footage that must be stored—and that’s the perceived problem in Pleasant Grove. According to police chief Mike Smith, the city would need to come up with $10,000 to $15,000 to store all of the footage.

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Government should not steal property

October 3, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  One comment

The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published today in the Deseret News.

Four years ago, prosecutors in the Utah Attorney General’s office conspired behind closed doors to deceive the Legislature into changing state law to facilitate taking property from people who have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime.

And they got away with it. In the 2013 general session, prosecutors presented a 50+ page bill that its sponsor, Representative Brad Dee, falsely claimed to his colleagues to be nothing more than a technical reorganization of existing law. In fact, the bill contained numerous and substantive changes that eroded property rights and due process for those whose property had been taken by police.

Stealing from others is wrong—except, apparently, when it’s the government doing it.

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Utah children stuck in the truancy trap

September 23, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  One comment

The following op-ed, written by our director of policy Michael Melendez, was published today in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Imagine if your child found school so emotionally distressing that they would rather die than go to class. Bullying, depression, and extreme embarrassment are just a few of the situations that too many of Utah’s school children endure.

As a parent, you would do all in your power to help and comfort your child, even if it meant changing the environment in which their schooling takes place. Most likely you would investigate several options that “appear” to be available to you: counseling, changing schools, or even homeschooling.

But then imagine if the school district and the court system sought to compel you to keep your child in the school where the problems began. What would you do if your child was forced into an environment that was demonstrably harmful to his or her well being? Surely the law would protect you and your family from such a situation.

Unfortunately, that may not be entirely true.

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How to Lose the Fight for Religious Freedom

July 18, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  2 comments

The following op-ed, written by our president Connor Boyack, was published this weekend in the Daily Herald.

Elder Lance B. Wickman, general counsel for the LDS Church, spoke last week to a crowd concerned about religious freedom. In his remarks, he outlined a strategy for winning the fight for religious freedom. While the goal is an important one that I and many Utahns share, I worry that the strategy is unlikely to succeed.

Before explaining why, consider an analogy. Imagine we’re in a war. Some people decide that we need to use soldiers to defend the munitions factory so that the enemy can’t destroy our ability to produce weapons. While a phalanx of guards protect this factory, the enemy destroys the barely-guarded mines from which the factory receives the raw materials necessary to create the weapons. Now all that’s left is a well-guarded shell of a building that isn’t worth much, since the materials are missing.

This is effectively the strategy that Elder Wickman advocated — a narrow focus on, and prioritization of, a “core” of religious freedoms. Outside of that inner circle reside freedoms that deserve less of our attention and effort if religious freedom is to be preserved, he claimed.

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Taxing carried interest a bad idea for Utah’s Silicon Slopes

June 17, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

The following op-ed, co-authored by our policy analyst Josh Daniels, was published this week in the Deseret News.

The only things certain in life are death and taxes. Rarely, however, do you find a tax plan bad enough to guarantee them both. Such is the nature of the proposed scheme to double taxes on capital investment through the deceptive cry to close the so-called “carried interest loophole.” This proposal could kill growth on Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” — a growing nexus of tech ventures along the Wasatch Front.

Under current tax law, investment fund managers pay ordinary income taxes on management fees and capital gains taxes on carried interest — a type of gain on the value growth of the investment. Tax policies that treat investment gains differently than income are designed to incentivize savings and investment — critical factors in the equation for economic growth.

Lobbyists for this enormous tax hike call those who disagree “ideologues” and “zealots” with “dogmatic views” and insist that we need to double these taxes in the name of “equality” and “fairness” and to reduce the deficit. However, not only would this policy not make a significant dent in the deficit, it would reduce capital investment while causing pension funds, university investment funds and charitable funds to take a hit.

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Homeowners Have the Right to Share Their Property

May 31, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

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

The self-styled “sharing economy” has brought innovation and efficiency to a number of industries in Utah, each of which has struggled to navigate byzantine and protectionist policies. Uber and Lyft drivers were fined $6,500 each time investigators discovered them until the state legislature legalized their operation. Zenefits was shut down from offering their innovative services until the backlash led to swift change in the Utah Department of Insurance. And still, Tesla remains unable to sell their new vehicles directly to Utah drivers.

Add Airbnb and VRBO to the list. These companies facilitate “short-term rentals”—offering a space in one’s home for a couple days or weeks at a time. While long-term rentals (30 or more days) are generally legal throughout the state, their short-term counterparts are not shown the same hospitality. In many cities, they are restricted to the point of effectively being banned.

So much for property rights.

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New labor rule may harm Utah’s economy and increase education costs

April 29, 2016  |  Posted in: Op-Eds  |  No comments

The following op-ed, co-authored by our policy analyst Josh Daniels, was published this week in the Deseret News.

Regardless of who is elected as president in November, Utah employers will likely “feel the bern” of increased employment costs thanks to a proposed federal rule from the Obama administration dealing with overtime pay.

The Fair Labor Standards Act currently requires employers to pay overtime rates to non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours per week. Exempt employees are usually white-collar, salaried employees who work in professional or administrative functions, including teachers, a shift manager at a small retail store, or the top executive at a Fortune 500 company. Since 2004, salaried employees earning more than $23,660 have been exempt from overtime laws.

President Obama recently directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to “update”—in other words, increase—this threshold by 113% to $50,440. That “update” is nearly five times the inflation rate since 2004. Such a sweeping change is not in fact an update—it’s an aggressive intervention.

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