$700 million—that’s how much Our Schools Now’s proposed tax hikes would cost Utah families and workers. These new taxes would reverse Utah’s low-tax, low-regulation culture that has made our state’s economy thrive.

Tax hikes are not the answer to education spending. Tax proponents say Utah desperately needs to increase education spending, but Utah already does better in education than other states that spend far more. If lawmakers want to increase education spending, they should get rid of $50 million in wasteful expenses and redirect to the classroom money now being  spent on administration and overhead.

A Tax Scheme Comes to Utah

Wealthy special interests are trying to hike taxes in the Beehive State. These groups are collecting signatures so their tax-and-spend initiative – Our Schools Now – will be put on the ballot.

Their first attempt to gain signatures resulted in sparsely attended meetings where they downplayed the costs of their project1. They said the project would cost $700 million, but the governor’s office reported it would actually cost $865 million.

More spending won’t improve education. Too much of Utah’s funding for education goes to administrative costs and overhead instead of teachers and students2. Our school system needs to spend existing funds more efficiently. Furthermore, the ballot initiative language is vague when it refers to teacher’s salaries and does not ensure this additional money will go to paying Utah teachers more.

Education Spending is Working

Counting The Cost

Utah’s economy is thriving. It is consistently ranked number one by Forbes3 and CNBC4. One study showed that Salt Lake City is the top city in the country for income mobility5.

Our state’s success is due to our low taxes and regulations. But Our Schools Now’s tax hikes would reverse this. Its income tax hike would hurt Utah families, and its sales tax increase would hurt our most vulnerable citizens who spend a greater share of their income on everyday goods. These new taxes would come at a considerable cost, and they are not justified by the scope of the problem they want to fix.

A Necessary Tax Hike?

The special interests behind Our Schools Now argue that our state needs tax hikes to fund education. They point out that Utah is ranked very low in per-pupil spending compared to other states.

Spending more money won’t necessarily improve our school system. Utah already outperforms states in K-12 achievement that spend much more per pupil on education like Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota and Michigan6. We do better with less.

Since 1970, the total cost of education spending has increased by almost 200 percent7. Meanwhile, scores for reading, math and science have barely fluctuated. In Alabama and Alaska, education spending nearly doubled, but SAT scores did not improve.

Our state has already started spending more on education in recent years. Two-thirds of new money from the general and education funds for 2017 went to education8.

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Better Spending, Not More

If we want to spend more on priorities, we shouldn’t turn to higher taxes. Instead, we should spend smarter and more responsibly. We should make sure money is going towards improving education, not a bloated administration.

Our state should reform the way current taxes are collected so more money goes to schools. AFP Utah’s Wastebook identifies over $50 million in wasteful expenses. Lawmakers should abolish these expenses from the budget. How can we ask hard-working Utahns to cough up more money when millions are going to pet projects?

More taxing and spending is not the answer. We should pursue other ways to make education better and spend smarter. Our state is thriving thanks to low taxation and smaller government. We ought to keep it that way.

Mischelle Gray, Parent

Mischelle Gray, whose child is currently in school, is opposed to Our Schools Now’s tax hikes because they would hurt her ability to buy everyday goods.

I feel that pain immediately. It’s the difference between a bag of groceries, two bags of groceries, school supplies. Everything that I spend money on that are needs for my family is affected.

Ed Reott, Retiree

Retiree Ed Reott of Price, Utah says new tax hikes would hurt him and his wife.

We’ve gone through three tax hikes: two on gasoline and one on property tax already.

Every tax hike means less money in the pockets of retirees like the Reott, which is why he opposes Our Schools Now.

My piece of the pie doesn’t get any bigger. We’re retired. But the government keeps increasing the size of its piece of pie.

Kim Coleman, State Representative

Rep. Kim Coleman, who sits on the higher education committee in the Utah House, has the inside scoop on the tax hikes proposed by Our Schools Now.

I look at this initiative first as sort of the wolf in sheep’s clothing…I don’t know that we get anything more out of just throwing more money at K-12.

Rep. Coleman doubts that raising taxes and increasing spending would help our education system. Utah students already perform better than other states that spend more per student, like Alaska and Delaware.

Casey Jackson, School Teacher

Utah school teacher Casey Jackson opposes Our Schools Now because it’s a vague proposal that doesn’t guarantee teachers will get paid more.

With this initiative, there is no guarantee that my pay will be increased to cover the taxes that I am guaranteed to have to pay…if it would pass.

One thing is certain: Jackson would be forced to pay higher taxes if the Our Schools Now has its way.

Gentry Boswell, Business Owner

Gentry Boswell, owner of Commander Concrete, says tax hikes hurt his business and could force him to lay off workers. That’s why he is opposed to the Our Schools Now ballot initiative.

Every time taxes go up, I have to make hard choices. I have to make the choice: Do I go out of business, or do I cut one of [my employees] off? Cutting one of them off is like choosing which hand to cut off. They’re like family to me.

News

Proposed Tax Hike Would Hurt Utah Schools

“Utah is currently debating whether to enact an $700 million tax hike. Wealthy Utah business owners are trying to raise taxes to increase funding for schools through the Our Schools Now ballot initiative.”

read more

My view: Income tax hike would kill jobs

“Utahns know the importance of a strong public education system — and today our public schools rank 10 spots higher in the national rankings published by Education Week than they did five years ago.”

read more
[1] http://www.sunad.com/news/our-schools-now-regional-public-meeting-sparsely-attended/article_5fad9c72-67e3-11e7-a070-37a3ed2fa401.html
[2] http://www.utahtaxpayers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/School-Spending-Report-Final.pdf
[3] https://www.forbes.com/places/ut/
[4] http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/12/utah-is-americas-top-state-for-business-in-2016.html
[5] https:/scholar.harvard.edu/files/hendren/files/mobility_geo.pdf
[6] http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2017/2017-state-education-grades-map.html
[7] https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa746_2.pdf
[8] https://le.utah.gov/interim/2017/pdf/00002431.pdf
[9] https://americansforprosperity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Wastebook-final.pdf