Posts Tagged Howard Stephenson

To balance the budget, let’s tax the poor more

He’s not just a state senator, he’s the president of the Utah Taxpayer’s Association, “your tax watchdog”. His own personal web site says,”Fighting to reduce your taxes, not add more!” (exclamation point is his)

But now Sen. Howard Stephenson, taxpaper advocate, is saying we need to increase the tax on food to the same rate people pay for boats and SUVs. He’d rather reduce the state income tax, which he says would be a real economic stimulus. Stimulus for whom? The thousands of Utahns who have lost their jobs? The tens of thousands of Utahns who live paycheck to paycheck? Or is it the buddies who hand out Jazz tickets and free dinners during the legislative session? Sure let’s drop the income tax on those who need it the least, and let’s make life even tougher by forcing lower income people to pay a disproportionate amount of their income on taxes.

Everyone eats, that means taxing food is the easy way out. It’s not the equitable solution, it’s just the easy one.

Okay, taxpayers of Dist. 11, I want you to remember this name the next time you see it on a ballot. This is your representative who thinks that adding the sales tax back onto food is a good way of bringing more money into state coffers:
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper


“Without a doubt, our budget would not be as bad off as it is now had we reduced the income tax more and left the food sales tax intact,” Stephenson says.

He says the food tax is a more stable revenue source than the income tax; while incomes rise and fall with the economic times, everybody has to eat.

Stephenson and Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, are now calling for the sales tax on unprepared food to be restored to the same rate as the general state sales tax: 4.70 percent.

The rate was ultimately reduced, in two separate moves in 2006 and 2007, to 1.75 percent–where it stands today.



The Utah Legislature Desperately Seeking Ethics

Why would ethics be a problem among Utah politicians? By far, the majority of those in the legislature, and government leadership positions espouse personal commitment to their religious beliefs. This would seem to imply a devotion to moral and ethical conduct. Indeed, they often seem overeager to legislate morality for Utah’s citizens. But this year, it appears our legislators have turned introspective and are now showing concern about their own morality.

SL Trib tells us that up to 14 different ethics-related bills are currently being prepared for introduction in the upcoming January session.

On the heels of a campaign season rocked by allegations of bribery and influence-peddling, Utah lawmakers are crafting a bevy of bills to address campaign-finance reform, lobbyist gifts and the Legislature’s rarely used ethics investigations.

We only have to go back as far as October to be reminded of the ethics investigation into Republican Representative Greg Hughes’ alleged bribery of a fellow legislator. With procedural biases that favored the legislator, the ethics committee was unable to do more than find Hughes guilty of conduct unbecoming a legislator and an admonishment for him to apologize for his wrongdoing.

As to the ethics charges themselves, the committee gave Hughes a pass, not because it found him innocent, but because, in the Committee’s view, the legislature’s current ethics standards were too vague to be applied.

And just this week State Senator Howard Stephenson is being accused of using his senate position to threaten and intimidate employees of the Utah Office of Education for “shabby treatment of ProCert Labs, an Orem-based company whose services Stephenson had been advocating for years.”

In a series of heated e-mails and phone calls, Stephenson, who heads the committee that sets the public education budget, threatened to withhold support from the Utah Office of Education, suggested it be downsized and have work outsourced and that the malcontents mistreating ProCert could be fired. [snip]

[State Superintendent Patti] Harrington said Stephenson is the “singular example” of a legislator who has weighed in with the education office and, as the senator who controls the education budget, his wishes are hard to ignore.

Also this week, the state Lieutenant Governor’s office is looking into the possible misuse of the State seal on a letter of endorsement by Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for DigitalBridge of Orem, just days before receiving a campaign contribution of $10,000 from the company. This just adds to the AG’s previous admitted misuse of official stationery for political purposes, as well as personally beneficial relationships with Ameriquest, payday lenders, and others.

And then there is state representative Aaron Tilton whose company Transition Power Development LLC, wants to build a 1,500-megawatt nuclear power plant, and representative Michael Noel, executive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District, who wants to provide the water needed for the project. These two men are vice chairman and chairman, respectively, of the legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee. Yet both claim no conflict of interest.

Certainly the laws are not designed to keep our public servants honest. We sort of leave it up to them to walk that line. And they know exactly where the line is, and they’ll walk right up and kiss it without stepping over. Seemingly moral and ethical individuals don’t always ‘choose the right’.

Let’s see if the next legislative session produces meaningful ethics laws or simply more fluff.

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