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In an editorial Dec. 4, the Deseret News stated that Utah should not have to pay back a small part of the state income taxes that were collected illegally from retired federal workers because the state hasn't budgeted for it.

Any common criminal could use the same excuse when a judge orders him to make restitution for money stolen from his victims.Utah politicians should consider the following before making decisions that would further penalize all Utah taxpayers:

Retirees from federal, state, railroad, military, Social Security and Utah educators were all exempt from paying state income tax by the 1939 Salary Act. Right or wrong, that was the law.

In 1973, Utah legislators pushed through Senate Bill 29 on the "fast track" (not to be assigned to committee or open for public comment). This bill removed the tax-exempt status, but only on federal and military retirees. They knew at the time that they were discriminating unfairly against one group of taxpayers.

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not give tax- exempt status to retired state employees and deny this exemption to retired federal workers. As stated in the editorial, "That has been corrected by legislatively taking away the tax break" for state employees.

However, they failed to mention that millions of dollars were taken illegally from federal retirees since 1973 and that these retirees are only asking the state to refund a small portion of the amount taken.

The states of Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri and North Carolina have been ordered by the courts to refund part of these taxes collected illegally. The longer the state of Utah delays, the more it will cost the state in court costs, attorney fees, interest, etc.

Let's hope the new governor and legislators will bite the bullet this year and include in their budgets at least some of the money owed to the federal retirees. The longer they put it off, the more it will cost the state.

Mel Harris