It started as a bad dream. Now it's fast turning into a nightmare.
With the last day of the 1991 session a week away, lawmakers are still unable to reach a compromise on a complex property tax issue resulting in the wake of the Utah Supreme Court's AMAX Magnesium decision.And now they are facing the possibility of going home at the end of next week and telling voters that their inaction ended up resulting in property tax increases on homes and small businesses. At least that's what leadership warned the House Republican caucus.
"After this session is over, you will have to answer the questions of why you raised taxes on homes to protect big business," observed House Majority Whip Byron Harward, R-Provo.
"Do nothing and the property tax shift (to homeowners and small businesses) is going to occur," agreed Rep. Glen Brown, R-Coalville, chairman of the executive appropriations committee.
House Republicans are split over how to solve a situation created when the Supreme Court ruled that Utah's method of taxing the property of large businesses like AMAX was unconstitutional. That ruling potentially could cost tax coffers more than $50 million a year - taxes that used to be paid by large corporations but would likely be shifted to residences and small businesses if lawmakers do nothing.
The increase in property taxes on homes would be minimal, but the increase on small businesses would be substantial, Brown said. And lawmakers are divided over which is the best way to recoup the tax dollars: increase other kinds of taxes on large corporations, increase taxes on homes and small businesses, or some combination of all options.
"Make my day and don't solve it," said Rep, John Valentine, R-Orem, a tax attorney. "I will make a bundle over the next couple of years in litigation."