SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker has sponsored a bill that would void an education initiative if it passes because he says the initiative’s goals could be reached without sales and income tax hikes.
The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mike Schultz of Hooper would cancel out the Our Schools Now initiative, which aims to boost annual education funding by $715 million through tax increases, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday.
Shultz said he’s working with the organizers of Our Schools Now and hopes to reach a compromise that would allow them to abandon their initiative.
He said the initiative’s goals could become reality without tax hikes if lawmakers are able to prioritize funding for schools through existing revenue.
“I think the public would like this,” Schultz said. “I think if we can get the dollars there, that’s the most important thing. My whole goal with all of this is to work together and show everybody we don’t have to have a tax increase to accomplish the same things.”
Austin Cox, spokesman for the Our Schools Now campaign, said the initiative is willing to work collaboratively with lawmakers on the critical needs of schools. But Cox said Utah residents are concerned about school funding levels.
“Lawmakers have set a very high bar for ballot initiatives in Utah,” Cox said. “If more than 110,000 (petition signers) express the desire to vote for better school funding, it would be tragic to undermine the most democratic of institutions.”
Our Schools Now organizers have been critical of the Legislature’s incremental approach to school funding in the past, arguing that state spending has focused on keeping pace with the growth in student enrollment without providing for improvement.
A recent poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics found that 56 percent of Utah voters support Our Schools Now, while 38 percent oppose the initiative’s tax increases.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com