Once again, the courts have ruled in favor of Utah's 34,000 federal civil service and military retirees. It is time for the state to end the stonewalling and blatant discrimination against the retirees. An honorable government would have made full restitution of the taxes they were not entitled to a long time ago.
The Utah Constitution gives the courts the power to enforce their orders and does not permit the Legislature to overrule a court order or to change a legal remedy such as the federal retiree tax refund remedy after the filing of a lawsuit.The retiree lawsuit was filed on June 9, 1989, in the 3rd District Court. Since that time, The U.S. Supreme Court and Utah Supreme Court have upheld the decision of the 3rd District Court, ordering the state to pay back to the retirees three of the 15 years of illegal taxes they levied, with 12 percent interest.
The statute on interest from 1987 to November 1993 is decreed in the Utah Code 59-1-402. The rate of interest applicable to any tax provision administered directly by the commission is 12 percent annually. The law does not say it applies to all citizens of Utah except federal retirees.
The October 1993 special session of the Legislature was called after the courts had ruled. The legislators, with the governor's concurrence, devised a plan to circumvent the law and the courts.
The entire leadership of both parties in the House of Representatives co-sponsored legislation, with the intent to ignore carrying out the court's orders; to defy the law and change the rate of interest from 12 percent to zero; to authorize the governor until Dec. 31, 1993, to convince the retirees to reject the award given them by the courts.
All 29 senators and 71 representatives rubber-stamped the bills. With their votes, they turned their back on the law and fairness, and for all intents and purposes, authorized the governor to swindle the federal retirees.
The retirees recognized the deception, rejected the so-called "generous offer" and placed their faith in the justice of the courts.
Once again, the Utah Supreme Court has affirmed their previous decision that ordered payment.
Once again, based on their new law, the state will probably challenge the award to the retirees in the lower court. Like the Energizer bunny, it goes on and on.
Bess T. Jensen