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Time for a tax cut

The state's major sources of revenues have grown substantially over the past ten years.

Annualized growth rates of state tax revenue, 1996 - 2006
Corporate income tax: 8.3%
Individual income tax: 7.2%
Gas tax: 5.2%
State sales tax: 5.1%
Total of four major state taxes: 6.2%
Population/inflation combined, annualized: 5.2%
Notes: State sales tax revenue includes earmarked revenues. Corporate and individual income tax revenues include mineral production withholding tax (60%/40% split). Motor fuel tax includes special fuel tax but excludes aviation fuel tax and motor vehicle registrations.

Source: Utah Taxpayers Association based data from the Utah State Tax Commission, Census Bureau, and Bureau of Economic Analysis. FY2006 data is preliminary.

Conservative point of view: Revenues have been growing much faster than inflation and population growth. It's time to cut taxes.

Liberal point of view: Sales tax revenue isn't growing as fast as the other revenue sources. It's time to raise sales taxes.

What about growth rates in local government taxes? A lot of cities are raising their taxes this year.

What about fully funding priorities like transportation and education, then cutting taxes?

What about fully REFORMING education, then fully funding, assuming that additional funding would be necessary.

And by reform, let's talk about REAL reform like more charter schools, merit and differential pay, vouchers for low-income families, UBSCT vouchers, etc.

"Fully funding" education means never cutting taxes in good times and raising taxes in bad times.

The NEA keeps saying that we need to fund education properly, but the U.S. has been increasing education spending much higher than inflation. It is never enough. Even in states that lead the nation in education spending, the NEA says "it's not enough". That's why other states like Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and others are starting to implement real reform.

Tax revenues are growing fast enough that the state can cut taxes AND increase education spending.

Why is the liberal POV to raise sales taxes? Who is proposing such a step? After all, it has been the "Conservatives" who have been blocking eliminating the sales tax on food, while "liberals" have tried to kill it for decades?
Please don't be so ridiculous, stupid, or simplistic in the future.

Who's being "ridiculous, stupid, and simplistic"? Liberals have been pushing for higher sales taxes, including increasing the rate for open space, mass transit, homeless trustfund, etc. They have also been pushing for taxing services and remote sales, and some have argued for expanding the tax on business inputs. Taxing services and remote sales may have policy merit, but unless it is met with a tax cut elsewhere -- which most liberals would oppose and conservatives would support-- it's a tax increase.

Btw, from here on out, posts that initiate name calling will be deleted.

Gee, someone is a bit cranky this morning. Instead of a thin-skinned response to name calling, how 'bout you simply disallow anonymous comments?

Research by Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business School) indicates that personnel-driven industries (those not easily automatable, such as education) tend to have cost increases double the rate of inflation. In other words, it's normal for costs in these type of industries to increase at a rate greater than inflation. Yes, education needs to find ways to be more efficient (educate more kids with fewer teachers), possibly through increased use of technology. It would be easier if the Legislature would offer to help rather than micro-manage.

(And to "The Man": While I'm in favor of charter schools, they have not yet been proven to provide significant savings. And, the Legislature has (rightly, or not) severely limited the number of new charter schools.)

Also recognize the state's demographics--and thus its needs--have shifted over the same time period. A less educated population is more expensive (social services). A more diverse population is more expensive (outreach, translation, educational services, etc.). The age distribution has also changed--we have fewer 20's per capita and more school-aged children, which is also more expensive per taxpayer.

Encapsulating the complexity of the tax structure into a few sentences to fit your agenda may fly with a "sound-bite electorate," but by glossing over inconvenient details you've lost some credibility in my mind.

Tom,

Thanks for repeating the NEA/UEA line on education. It's always important to have the teachers' union and colleges of education represented in these discussions.

Since public education is a monopoly, the Legislature has no choice but to "micromanage". Monopolies have always been regulated. That's why we need real choice and competition. Once we have more choice, the education market place will be more self-regulating, just like higher education.

How much of the increased cost in education per student is attributable to a more difficult-to-educate student population? It's easy to say "kids are more difficult to educate" today, but you should offer some evidence as to how much of the per student increase is attributable this factor. Evidence is better than sound bites.

Moreover, hasn't the child poverty rate decreased in the past several decades? Compared to thirty years ago, aren't more children growing up in households where at least ONE parent attended college? That should mean that today's children should be easier to educate.

Besides, we've been told over the years that all of these government programs that we have been funding are supposed to save us money in the long run. Therefore, our tax burdens should be DECREASING, not increasing.

Tom:

At least one of your statements is statistically incorrect. You wrote "we have fewer 20's per capita and more school-aged children, which is also more expensive per taxpayer."

The percentage of total Utah residents of all ages that are enrolled in public schools has decreased from 25.7% in 1990 to 20.0% in 2005, a decrease of 22%. That percentage is forecasted to rise slightly to 20.6% by 2015, which is still much lower than it was in 1990.

The dependency ratio (number of school age children per 100 working age adults) decreased from 48 in 1990 to 38 in 2000. In 2010, the ratio is forecasted to decrease a little further to 36 and then return to 38 by 2020, which is much lower than 1990.

@Utah Taxpayer: Thank you for the correction. (Do you have a source? I'd like to study it.)

That portion of my comment was based on a May 2006 study from the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah. Perhaps I read too much into it, or came to the wrong conclusion. I've excerpted the relevant portion below.

"Utah’s college age population, ages 18 through 24 years, is projected to be flat or grow very slowly for at least the next ten years. Utah’s true Baby Boom peaked in the early 1980s. This age wave moved through higher education in the 1990s, peaking at the end of the decade. The echo boom from cohort is well underway, resulting in record births for most years since 1998. These echo boom children began entering public education in large numbers in 2006 and should begin to significantly impact higher education around 2018. In the meantime, this new age wave will add at least 10,000 new students annually to Utah’s public education system for at the next ten years or longer. This school age population boom will occur simultaneously with the slow- to no-growth period in the college age population." (Perlich, 2006, p. 1, emphasis added)

@The Man: You're putting words in my mouth. I didn't say "kids are more difficult to educate today." I said it's more expensive to employ teachers do so without making drastic changes to the student-teacher ratio. Not knowing what causes the results of Christensen's research (and I'd like to look into it more), I can only make guesses: perhaps it's increased health care costs, individual litigation insurance, or--although perhaps less applicable to public education--a shift from government retirement packages (Social Security) to individual responsibility (e.g. IRAs).

The same Perlich study (above) indicates a declining level of educational attainment for adults over 25 (she doesn't do a per household calculation, but taken broadly, compared to 15 years ago in Utah, children are less likely to have a parent who attended college). Numerous studies indicate a direct correlation between parents' education and the academic performance of students. I was just recently reading about a study showing the vocabulary and grammar used by parents of pre-kindergarten students affects that child's reading level at the 12th grade.

Also, I said a more diverse population is more expensive--and not just in terms of education. Are you suggesting a child who doesn't speak English would not cost more to educate to the same level as one who does? Although I don't have a source for it, the number that sticks in my mind is a 40% higher cost for non-native English students. Anecdotally, when asking education officials whether 40% is correct, the most common answer is, "at least!"

Tom:

The source on the dependency ratios is from the 2006 Economic Report to the Governor, figure 11 on page 19. The percent of population enrolled in public K-12 figure is our number based on USOE, Census Bureau, and GOPB data.

Btw, the Governor's office has been very accurate in their dependency ratio calculations. In the proposed FY1990 budget (released in December 1988), the predicted ratio for 2000 was 38 which matched the actual value for 2000 exactly.

Regarding the cost of educating immigrant children as well as other more-expensive-to-educate children, the association will be releasing an analysis in September.

The Utah Taxpayers Association has consistently fought anything that is not radically conservative in education. I believe their real motive is to advance an ultra-conservative educational environment, having little to do with "protecting the taxpayer" or any other such dishonest, pandering propoganda. The authoritarian right will not be content until they control every aspect of life in Utah.

Howard, leave our schools alone!

Since when did giving parents/consumers more choice become authoritarian? Vouchers for low income families and charter schools for primarily middle income families are the complete opposite of authoritarianism. The status quo is authoritarian.

You're defending power brokers who neither need nor deserve it.

I will agree with you that the status quo is indeed authoritarian. The traditional boys club of Stephenson, Bramble, Tilton, Hughes, Dougall, et al. is indeed authoritarian in both their philosophies and their methodologies. They use their positions to starve government before they kick it in the head. They would like nothing more than to deprive our public schools of adequate funding in order to see them fail. Indeed, a vibrant, choice-friendly public education system is their worst nightmare - proof that their "solve everything with a tax cut" and "just privatize it" mentality is profoundly wrong.

I would challenge both you and Howard to spend a day in a classroom as a Utah public school teacher. Earn what a teacher earns and suffer the needless legislative mandates while educating 35 children with outdated textbooks and antiquated technology. Prepare quality lesson plans on a variety of subjects for your overachievers, your on-level students, your students with learning disabilities, the 2 hyperactive kids with ADHD, the boy with asbergers, the girl who speaks Russian, and the student whose mother is convinced he's brilliant but says the homework is too hard (and of course it's your fault).

Spend a day without library specialists (cut), a full-time counselor (marginalized), a harried principal trying to plan for the influx of new students, and the threat of being called a "failing school" under NCLB if two of your special ed students don't pass their CRT's.

But most importantly, feel the disrespect that people like you show to our inspiring, hard-working teachers and administrators. Feel it deeply and intensely. Enjoy being called a "wasteful bureaucrat" as you manage 10 schools under your care (all at a fraction of what you would earn in the private sector). Internalize the demeaning condescension of being called mediocre and lazy simply because you belong to an organization who fights for you when you are falsely accused or when the legislature tries to jerk you around. Relish that you, as a first year teacher, qualify for food stamps.

Spend a day in a teacher's shoes and see how you like it.

You are not being Honest,

From what you said, it sounds like your a school choice supporter but don't know it, yet! Perhaps I could help you come out of the "School choice closet."

One of the core arguments for school choice is that "one size does not fit all." As has been proven in the many states/cities that have initiated vouchers, school choice will allow for schools to develop that cater to specific needs, and thus, teachers won't have to teach to the common denominator.

School choice will help eliminate the very problem you bring up that is caused by the very system that you so ardently defend.

It's like when you go to Smith's and you can choose from 50 different types of bread. WHy is that? It's called capitalism, free markets, supply/demand, etc. That's why the grocery stores in the USSR only had a limited number of breads to choose from.

Also, if teachers and administrators would make more money in the private sector, then why are you against privatizing public schools? Wouldn't that make them part of the private sector and thus, wouldn't teachers then make more money as per your own arguments?

P.S. Can I know what school you teach at so that I can be sure not to live in the neighborhood that feeds into it?

I heart school choice:

Now now, you had some interesting points until your obnoxious jab. In response, go ahead and pick any neighborhood you want. You may be happier in Wyoming which recently increased education spending significantly and as a result is attracting some of the best educational talent in the region.

My comments had nothing to do with so called "school choice" (who came up with that loaded phrase)? But since you brought it up, I believe that charters, magnets, and private schools have their place in the diverse framework of educational opportunities. On my street alone the kids go to more than 20 individual schools, whether traditional, charter, private, or homeschool. Choice works and is working and I am a big fan of giving parents the ability to make those decisions. So, you were right - choice is a positive thing.

HOWEVER, funding private education through public tax money is just plain creepy and invites abuse. A business has one purpose - to advance its own interest. Public education is for the betterment of society, not for the enrichment of corporations. Any private school that requires propping up through public funds should fail. Let public schools be public and private schools be private.

FURTHERMORE, you are mistaken on one point - the small-scale voucher experiments across the country have not proven conclusively that they improve test scores.

BUT, the real point of my comments (which you seem to have ignored) is this: on behalf of the many students who enjoy an outstanding public education in this state, we are simply not doing enough! The will of the people speaks in stark contrast to the ultra-right: FUND EDUCATION BEFORE ENACTING A PERMANENT TAX CUT.

If we want to try something new, let's try decentralization through the "backpack" concept as characterized by Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education to President Bush. I invite you to read http://www.edexcellence.net/foundation/gadfly/issue.cfm?edition=&id=248#2907

And I'd still like to see Howard try to chase down 35 kids in any school!

You are not being honest,

SOrry for that last jab, but it brings up a point. You don't want your kids being controlled by ultra-conservatives just like I don't want my kids being taught that free enterprise is the devil.

My comment on school choice is that it opens up the door to a variety of schools, each catered to fit the needs of different kinds of students.

I didn't comment on whether school choice improves test scores. But since you mentioned it, I figure we should delve into the topic. From what I have read on the subject, every study done on vouchers that uses random sampling has found that students using vouchers do as well or better than their counterparts who applied for vouchers but didn't get one. Here's a link to get you started on the subject. Go to the bottom of the article to the section on vouchers:

http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.19233/article_detail.asp

In addition, every voucher study has shown that parents who use vouchers are more satisfied with their kid's school.

I'm confused why you oppose letting parents decide what school is best for their kids? Why does the word private scare you so much? You say that if a school needs public funds to survive, it should fail. Is that not the case with public schools? Do they not only exist due to their dependence on publi funds?

For me, the bottom line should be, let's get these kids the best education possible. If it's a school run by Sam Walton himslef, then great. If it's a school run by some leftist whack-o, then great.

Like you said, public education is about the betterment of society. That's why I support vouchers. It's publicly funding education for the betterment of society. The difference is, parents get to choose what school is best for their kids and school have to perform to attract customers (i.e. students). If the school fails, it goes out of business instead of ruining the educational careers of thousands of children.

The argument should be about the kid, not the system.

And about funding education before getting a tax break, I agree that we should be more committed to publicly funding education, but we should do it the right way. MOnopolies provide poor services at higher costs. Let's incorporate school choice and put more money in the system. Otherwise, you're not going to see much improvement with more money spent on education. That's another sad fact about our current public school system--we continue to spend more per student, and yet, see no improvement.

I don't think I'd want either Sam Walton or a "leftist whack-o" responsible for a school.

I've also never met a teacher who has taught that free enterprise is of the devil.

School choice is working; parents have many choices and I think that is a good thing. Although we may disagree on the form such choice should take, parents should have many options from which to choose.

Regardless of whether vouchers are a good idea, our educational funding effort has slipped in this state...a lot. A tax cut right now does not make sense until we can right the ship. This is true whether vouchers come on board or not.

Thank you for your comments.

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