Rep. Rosemary Lesser urges the abolition of VAT on food | News, sports, jobs

Utah Senator Luz Escamilla speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, announcing plans to abolish the state sales tax on groceries. Utah MP Rosemary Lesser from Ogden, who was traveling and not attending the press conference, plans to introduce the law.

Utah Rep. Rosemary Lesser

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Utah Senator Luz Escamilla speaks at a news conference in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, announcing plans to abolish the state sales tax on groceries. Utah MP Rosemary Lesser from Ogden, who was traveling and not attending the press conference, plans to introduce the law.

OGDEN – Back in late 2019, Rosemary Lesser, along with many others, pushed for a referendum across the state to reverse a tax reform passed by Utah lawmakers that included an increase in food sales tax.

The controversial measure, which was passed in a special meeting in December 2019, would have increased the food tax from 1.75% to 4.85%. That, according to Ms. Ogden and other critics, would have hit the low-income Utahners particularly hard, regardless of other provisions that lower income taxes.

Ultimately, lawmakers lifted the revision and bowed to pressure from Lesser and other enemies. Now, however, Lesser – no longer just a civilian lobbyist for change, but a member of the Utah House – wants to take things one step further. She plans to introduce a law in the upcoming 2022 session to completely abolish the state VAT of 1.75% on food.

Cities and counties can levy sales tax of up to 1% or 0.25% on food that would not be affected by the plans.

“Fixed income people who belong to the lower economic groups spend up to a third, sometimes more, of their income to cover these vital things,” said Lesser. As such, sales tax hits them harder than wealthier Utahners who don’t spend as much of their income on groceries – and that, says Lesser, is unfair.

Photo supplied, Utah House

Utah Rep. Rosemary Lesser

Last September, she publicly announced her plans to push for an end to the tax in a letter to the editorial staff of the Standard Examiner. On Wednesday, a coalition of Democratic lawmakers and community officials launched the campaign to end the tax and held a press conference in Salt Lake City to spread the word about the plans across Utah.

“Anything we can do to reduce food costs will help the people we serve,” said Bill Tibbitts, assistant director of Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit group that operates and maintains food supplies Efforts supported. “We’re trying to make people understand that this is possible.”

Rev. Kim James of the Ogden First United Methodist Church, which is actually in Marriott-Slaterville, noted that Utah is one of the few US states that tax food. “It’s just not sensible to tax groceries,” said James.

She is also involved in the abolition of the tax, sees it as an opportunity to help those most in need, and attended the press conference on Wednesday. Utah MP Jennifer Dailey-Provost and Utah Senator Luz Escamilla also attended, while Lesser, who was traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, did not. The three lawmakers are Democrats.

According to the Tax Policy Center, 37 states and Washington DC do not tax groceries. Utah is one of six states that tax groceries at a lower rate than other goods, while seven states tax groceries at the same rate as other items.

A report released by the Food Security Task Force last month found that 10% of Utah households are “food insecure” and that more than 102,000 Utah families do not have the resources to buy the groceries they need. The task force investigated the problem under the 2020 legislation introduced by Escamilla.

“AN UNPOPULAR TAX”

Abolishing the tax would not necessarily put a strain on the Utah treasury.

Utah’s state grocery sales tax generates around $ 140 million a year, according to Lesser. However, she noted that the change, which came into effect in 2019, requiring online retailers to levy taxes on their sales, most recently generated around $ 95 million per quarter.

At the same time, James pointed out the federal funding that Utah, like other states, has received to counter the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With these funds available to the state, 2022 will be the year of change, she claims.

Tibbitts expects a lot of debates on this subject in the future. “I think this is definitely going to be something people will talk about,” he said. “It’s an unpopular tax.”

Lesser now thinks it is a proposal with bipartisan support. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing and I think the timing is now,” she said.

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