SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers made their first moves Wednesday toward a tax cut.
The Utah Senate voted unanimously to pass SB11, a bill that would use about $43 million out of the $80 million already set aside for some form of a tax cut this year to reduce income taxes for Utahns on Social Security and military retirement.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration — and is expected to be paired with other tax relief bills as the session goes on. Lawmakers have also expressed interest in an across-the-board income tax cut and an increase in the state’s existing tax credit for dependents to reverse some harms from federal tax law changes in recent years.
“This will be part of a larger tax cut package that we’re doing with other things that will come forward from both the House and the Senate,” said bill sponsor Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville. “Together we’re going to do good things for the state of Utah this year.”
Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said cutting taxes this year is a “top priority.”
“After a difficult year, we felt it important to get money back into the hands of Utahns,” Adams said in a prepared statement. “This bill does exactly that. I am thrilled the Senate is promptly and meticulously taking steps to reduce taxes.”
If approved by the House and signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, SB11 would reduce tax burdens on nearly 67,000 Utahns on fixed incomes, including those who make $48,000 a year or less as a couple or $24,000 or less as an individual on Social Security income.
Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, is sworn by Dan Hemmert, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, during the first day of the 2021 general legislative session in the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
It would reduce their burden by an average of $298 a year in a Social Security credit — totaling nearly $20 million, according to the bill’s fiscal note. It would also provide a tax credit for nearly 18,100 veterans on military pensions, a tax cut of about $1,315 on average, which would total about $23.8 million.
“I really applaud this,” said Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. “I think it is the right measure. Let’s get this out there so we can start discussing it. Let’s work with the House and with our executive branch and determine what’s the best and most equitable way (to cut taxes).”
Whether it’s this bill or “some modification,” Vickers said, “it’s very appropriate to begin the discussion” this early in the session given all the work on the issue during the interim.
Senate Budget Chairman Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, said debate around tax relief for Utahns on military pensions has been a debate on Utah’s Capitol Hill for years now. He said some military Utahns have decided to move out of state to avoid taxes on their retirement. “As a result … we’re losing a lot of people who are not only trained in military but trained to lead others,” he said.
Harper called SB11 “really good policy.”
“It’s something we need to debate and is something we need to go through and pass,” Harper said, adding that the House will “deal with it in a fair and equitable way. It’s something we need to do that’s right.”