Tax reform: Thousands sign statewide petition for referendum

More than 100,000 more signatures needed in less than two weeks

Kiley Miller works with petition organizer Christie Williams-Dunton as fellow organizer Ryan Anderson looks on. The petition Miller signed at the event in the Grand County Library seeks to repeal the Utah legislature’s recently passed tax reform package. Photo by Carter Pape

Expressing complaints about a recent tax reform law passed by Utah lawmakers, roughly 200 Moabites have joined about 10,000 Utahns across the state to sign a petition that, if 115,689 signatures are gathered by Jan. 21, would put the tax reform package on the November ballot and give voters statewide the final say on the matter.

Former State Rep. Fred Cox, R-West Valley City, a sponsor of the petition and the one who filed paperwork Dec. 16 to launch the petition, said that the among his issues with the tax reform bill were the statewide increases on food and gas taxes that it will implement alongside changes that he said would result in an increase to local property taxes levied by school districts.

Locally, a handful of volunteers have joined the petition effort. Cassie Patterson, who is officially Grand County’s coordinator on the petition, said that the petition would be an challenge given the high bar that Utah law sets for petitions to succeed.

“It’s a very uphill battle, but I have seen the speed with which the word has gotten out about our efforts, and I believe we can pull it off,” Patterson said.

Patterson said late last week that the local group had gathered roughly 200 signatures. Of the nearly 10,000 Grand County residents, the petition will require 419 signatures to succeed, and Patterson said that the goal is 629.

Patterson said that among the key issues she had with the tax reform package was what she called the “sneaky” and “underhanded” special session that lawmakers held mid-December, a month and a half before the legislature’s 2020 session was to begin, to pass the tax reform package.

Patterson also said the law would “negatively impact nearly all Utah residents,” although the state’s legislative fiscal analyst has said the package would provide income tax breaks sufficient to decrease the tax liability of most Utah households.

For Patterson, tax reform is also personal. “I am one of those lower-income folks who will be hurt by this tax bill, being a single mother who works two jobs to get by,” she said.

The local group has organized several signing sessions at the Grand County Public Library, and signing sessions have also been held at the Castle Valley Town Building. Readers can visit the website for the statewide petition effort at www.utah2019tax.com for more information and review details on dates and times for signing sessions, including in Grand County.