State Policy

Our organization recognizes the importance of standing against policies that jeopardize the well-being of Utah’s children. We believe that regular community members have the right and responsibility to influence decisions about policies that affect their lives. 

The ability of everyday Utahns to influence public policy directly, through ballot initiatives, should be part of our state’s democratic process. However, the state legislature for years has passed laws that make it more difficult for members of the public to pose questions to their fellow voters statewide, by conducting ballot initiatives.  

This year, the campaign to suppress public ballot initiatives takes the form of two complementary bills, both sponsored by Rep. Jason Kyle (R-Huntsville). HJR14, “Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution - Statewide Initiatives,” would amend our state constitution so that a simple majority of Utah voters can no longer approve new or expanded funding streams for state programs. The bill increases the threshold for a winning ballot initiative from 50% to 60%, when the ballot initiative seeks to increase revenue for state programs through a new tax or by expanding an existing tax. HB284, “Initiative Amendments,”  would require a ballot initiative that increases taxes to specify where the money will come from to pay for the tax increase. 

Ballot Initiatives in Utah Are Already Nearly Impossible

Utah is already one of the most difficult states in which to conduct a public ballot initiative. Whether the ballot initiative reflects the desires of Utahns to revert to our old state flag, or to expand Medicaid coverage to more people in need, organizers face high barriers before the voting public can weigh in. 

For example. Utah law currently requires ballot initiative organizers to collect a total of 134,298 signatures, and they must meet specific signature thresholds in at least 26 out of 29 Senate districts. (between about 3,000 and 5,600 handwritten signatures per district, depending on the Senate district). 

Even when organizers manage to clear all the hurdles to get a public ballot initiative before Utah voters, the Legislature has shown that it feels no obligation to respect voters’ desires. Ballot initiatives to legalize medical cannabis, expand Medicaid coverage to more Utahsn, and to create an independent redistricting commission (to push back on legislative gerrymandering)  all successfully passed in 2018. The legislature walked back all of these efforts, either completely undoing, or mangling the implementation of, each successful initiative.  

Why Voices Opposes HJR14 & HB284

Decisions made at the state level regarding investments in education, healthcare, childcare, and other essential services have profound consequences for future generations. By adding yet more hurdles for members of the public seeking to impact state laws, HJR14 and HB284 risk undermining the public’s constitutional right to directly petition their government. 

If HJR14 is approved, the proposed amendment will appear on voter ballots this November. Utah voters will be able to decide whether to limit their own access to this incredibly important tool for democratic influence over public policies that affect us all. 

Voices for Utah Children opposes the passage of HJR14 and HB284, recognizing the importance of preserving Utahns’ right to safeguard the interests of its children through ballot initiatives. This is particularly important now, as the legislature increasingly ignores public comment, public outcry and public sentiment when introducing and passing their bills. 

Your voice matters! You can participate in the democratic process right now by weighing in on these bills, either by providing a public comment during the committee hearings or by writing your legislator to express your objections.

VIEW OUR LEGISLATIVE TRACKER TO LEARN MORE!

 

Published in News & Blog

This open letter was released on January 31, 2024, by Neighborhood House and Voices for Utah Children, two non-profit organizations working together with other community partners to create a better childcare system in Utah for the benefit of all the children in care. You can sign on, too, by completing this short form

The undersigned community leaders urge the Utah State Legislature to take bold action on proposals that invest more dollars into Utah’s early education and childcare infrastructure.

Investing in a robust, high-quality childcare system and creating in-state infrastructure, is one of the best investments we can make for our children, and our state.

A well-supported early care and education system supports families by increasing their earning potential so they can get out of, and stay out of, poverty. It also contributes to the success of children in our school systems and as future contributors to our community.

Approximately 77% of Utahns live in a childcare desert, demonstrating that the majority of our state lacks sufficient licensed childcare to meet families’ needs (Voices for Utah Children, 2023). This predicament stems from both limited availability of services and the strikingly high cost of quality care. When available, the high cost of care inhibits lower income families from participating in the workforce.

For childcare to be considered affordable, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that a family should pay no more than 7% of its household income for childcare services. In more than half of Utah's 29 counties, families are burdened with paying between 15% and 20% of their annual income for infant/toddler care at licensed childcare facilities. (Voices for Utah Children, 2023)

The current amount of investment by state government is insufficient to address these needs. Choosing high-quality childcare is out of reach for most families, and is unattainable by most childcare providers because of the labor-intensive nature of the industry.

Without government investment, families are left with low quality options that endanger children, and disincentivize providers. We are calling on the Utah Legislature to invest more dollars into the childcare industry. With cross sector collaboration between business, the philanthropic community, and government entities, we can address this crisis and become a model for the nation.

This is truly an investment, as the long-term positive outcomes for our state are significant.

  • Utah's economic prosperity is directly tied to the success and stability of its workforce. Currently, Utah’s economy loses $1.36 billion annually due to lack of childcare access. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2022)
  • Investing in our children during the most formative times of their lives staves off costly interventions that come later in life, including in our school systems. (Davis Schoch, 2023)
  • The outcomes are proven: Adults who receive early childhood education as children are more likely than their peers to finish high school, have higher lifetime earnings, and avoid involvement in the criminal justice system. (Davis Schoch, 2023)

We urge you to use your influence and position to champion increased prudent investment in our state’s childcare system.

Please, take bold action for our state’s future.

Letter Signatories
(as of February 20, 2024)

  • Lisa Eccles, President and COO, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
  • Spencer and Kristine Eccles
  • Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation
  • Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation
  • Angela and Zeke Dumke
  • Jeffrey & Helen Cardon Foundation
  • Richard K. and Shirley S. Hemingway Foundation
  • Carol W. and John H. Firmage, III
  • Millerberg Family Giving Fund 
  • Semnani Family Foundation 
  • The McGuire Family Foundation 
  • BMW of Murray
  • MINI of Murray
  • BMW Pleasant Grove
  • Firmco
  • Motoring Skins
  • Krystal Nielsen, Lil Oaklies Childcare
  • Katie Ricord, Utah Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Kristy DeGraaf, Childcare Provider, Children’s Tylenol National Childcare Teacher of the Year
  • IJ & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center
  • Salt Lake Chamber
  • Neighborhood House
  • The Children’s Center Utah
  • Utah Non-Profit Association
  • Utah Afterschool Network
  • United Way of Salt Lake
  • Ogden Contemporary Arts
  • Utah Child Care Cooperative
  • YWCA Utah
  • Holy Cross Ministries
  • Early Childhood Alliance
  • Utah Care for Kids Network
  • Utah Center for Civic Improvement
  • Voices for Utah Children
  • South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (Salt Lake City)
  • Canyon Creek Services (Cedar City)
  • Friends of the Children Utah (Kearns)
  • YCC Family Crisis Center (Ogden)
  • Seekhaven, Inc. (Moab)
  • Peace House (Park City)
  • English Skills Learning Center (Murray)
  • Northeastern Utah Friends Against Family Violence (Vernal)
  • Ashley Ence, Sunny Kids, LLC (Saint George)
  • Moab Community Childcare (Moab)
  • Bright Beginnings Academy (South Jordan)
  • KaRis KiDdos (Magna)
  • North Star Children's Center (Kaysville)
  • Little Geniuses Learning Center LLC (Pleasant Grove)
  • Little Orchard Preschools and. Learning Centers (Bountiful)
  • ABC Great Beginnings (Taylorsville)
  • Kool Kidz Adventure Academy (Clearfield) 
  • Tiny Woodland LLC (Bountiful)
  • Erin Aguilar (North Salt Lake)
  • Nando Arroyo (Salt Lake City)
  • Michelle Barker (Woods Cross)
  • Jenn Bean (Midvale)
  • Stacy Bernal (Ogden)
  • Robyn Blackburn (American Fork)
  • Ana Castaneda (Salt Lake City)
  • Merry Clift (Salt Lake City)
  • Dana Cremeno (Park City
  • Mikenna DeBruin (Draper)
  • Erica Flugan (Salt Lake City)
  • Carlie Fowles (Manti)
  • Maria Sara Gonzales (Salt Lake City)
  • Reverend Brent Gundlah (Salt Lake City)
  • Janie Harris (Nephi)
  • Tyler Harris (Nephi)
  • Jessica Jauregui (Salt Lake City)
  • Caressa King (American Fork)
  • Heather Larsen (Nephi)
  • Rhiana Medina (Moab)
  • Rylee Messick (Eagle Mountain)
  • Jessica Mirabile (Sandy)
  • Monique Montoya (West Valley)
  • Hayley Neff (Salt Lake City)
  • Curtis Price (Salt Lake City)
  • Stephen Scoville (Salt Lake City)
  • Sally Tauber (Park City)
  • Marisela Valerio (Salt Lake City)
  • Maria Zavala (Salt Lake City) 
  • Jamie Bitton (Ogden)
  • Kate Blanch (Ogden)
  • Tricia Bunderson (Lehi)
  • Amariah Gibbs (Salt Lake City)
  • Brenda Gonzalez (Salt Lake City)
  • Brittany Greenwood (West Jordan)
  • Eddie Greenwood (Salt Lake City)
  • Todd Hepworth (Santaquin)
  • Robin Hough (Salt Lake City)
  • Jeff Howell (Salt Lake City)
  • Jennifer Johnson (Syracuse)
  • Mariana Kraschowetz (Salt Lake City)
  • Amber Lewis (Kaysville) 
  • Alysse Loomis (Salt Lake City)
  • Lianna Lopez (Kamas)
  • Natalie Mason (Salt Lake City)
  • Bree Murphy (Salt Lake City) 
  • Reverend David Nichols (Salt Lake City)
  • Reba Kiger-kolasch (Salt Lake City) 
  • Connie Roller (Salt Lake City) 
  • Jennifer Rosas (Salt Lake City) 
  • Eduardo Rubalcava (Magna)
  • Sean Schilling (Smithfield)
  • Susan R. Madsen (Bountiful) 
  • Reverend Jamie White (Salt Lake City) 
  • Mackenzie Genecov (Park City)
  • Lucia Miramontes (Salt Lake City)
  • Julie Adam (Salt Lake City)
  • Shelby Averett (Salt Lake City)
  • Alison Dedman (Cottonwood Heights)
  • Monica Delgadillo (Bountiful)
  • David Durrant (Cottonwood Heights)
  • Elaine Ellis (Salt Lake City)
  • Hannah Eldredge (Salt Lake City)
  • Kayley Heier (North Salt Lake)
  • John Hewes (Salt Lake City)
  • Lindsay Larkin (Salt Lake City)
  • Jen Milner (Salt Lake City)
  • Brittany Mitchell (Salt Lake City)
  • Elizabeth Moon (Salt Lake City)
  • Reverend Chelsea Page (Salt Lake City)
  • Melanie Pehrson (Salt Lake City)
  • Erica Sánchez (West Valley City)
  • Catherine Sharpsteen (Salt Lake City)
  • Brooke Skelton (West Valley City)
  • Karla Smith (Salt Lake City)
  • Sadé Turner (Salt Lake City)
  • Paul Walker (Farmington)
  • Sue Womack (Springville)
  • Gabriella Archuleta (Holladay)
  • Sebastian De Freitas (Salt Lake City)
  • Jason Johnson (Salt Lake City)
  • Allison Nicholson (Salt Lake City)
  • Kalolaine Tamoua (Salt Lake City)
  • Cassidie Archuleta (Murray)
  • Richard Biren (Lehi)
  • Neal Davis (South Jordan)
  • Emmie Gardner (Bountiful)
  • Molly McFadden (Salt Lake City)
  • Meredith Muller (Salt Lake City)
  • Ze Min Xiao (Salt Lake City) 
  • Maggie Beers (Salt Lake City)
  • Vicki Dickinson (West Jordan)
  • Aubrey Meyer (Salt Lake City)
  • Maureen O'Malley Kirschner (Salt Lake City) 

You can add your foundation, business, organization or name by completing our simple form below. 

Sign on today!

References

Davis Schoch, A. S. (2023). Children’s learning and development benefits from high-quality early care and education: A summary of the evidence. OPRE Report #2023-226. Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (2022). Untapped Potential in Utah: How Childcare Impacts Utah's Workforce Productivity and the State Economy. 

Voices for Utah Children. (2023). Mapping Care for Kids: A County-Level Look at Utah's Crisis in Licensed Child Care. Salt Lake City.

Published in News & Blog

RSVP Today! 

We invite you to join us as we celebrate immigrants in Utah! Explore opportunities to shape the future of our state during the Legislative Session through civic engagement and learning opportunities. This is a family friendly event! Food, resource tables, and entertainment will be provided.

  • Location: Capitol Rotunda - 350 N. State Street Salt Lake City, UT 84114
  • Date: February 13, 2024
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

For any question, please reach out to . Spread the word, please share our flyer: English | Español

RSVP HERE

Published in Events

Please join us for a powerful advocacy experience as we come together during the 2024 Legislative Session Days on the Hill.

Our goal is to unite advocates from all corners of the state, urging legislators to champion policies and programs that uplift and support Utah's children and families. Each week provides an opportunity to engage in the legislative process on a specific issue area. You’ll have the chance to attend bill hearings and lobby your legislators, connect with fellow community advocates, and watch House and Senate floor debates. 

Whether its your first time or your millionth time at the Capitol, we'd love to have you join us! If it is your first time, check out our mini overview here

Dates & Times

  • Wednesday, January 24, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Wednesday, January 31, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Wednesday, February 21, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Wednesday, February 28, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Please RSVP to attend either our Children's Health focused legislation or Child Care focus. You may join either focus area on any of the Days on the Hill dates, simply fill out the RSVP link of your choosing below. 

Health Care Advocates Days on the Hill

During the 2024 Legislative session our healthcare team will advocate this year to ensure kids have a healthy start and we will focus on ensuring the Medicaid and CHIP programs are protected and funded to meet the needs of low-income families in our state. 

RSVP HERE

Child Care Champion Lobby Days

This legislative session, our child care team is focused on bringing awareness to the child care crisis and demanding public investment. We invite parents, providers, and kiddos to come out and join us and show legislators that families with young children deserve support. To see our full list of child care legislation, click here.

RSVP HERE 

Published in Events

Governor Cox unveiled his budget last week, and the general direction of the budget is positive. Voices for Utah Children is interested in some specific components of the budget that directly impact Utah children and their families:

Public Education

$854 million increase, including a 5% jump in per-pupil funding and $55 million for rural schools

This is a much-needed investment in public education. We support the focus on rural schools and are anxious to see the details as they emerge. Public education consistently polls as a top priority for Utahns of all political parties and backgrounds.

Support for Utah Families

 $4.7 million to expand Utah’s child tax credit and $5 million for accessible child care

We appreciate the fact that the Governor has begun to address the urgent needs of Utah families with young children. However, both allocations fall far short of the amount required to truly support and elevate these young families’ current needs. A truly impactful child tax credit would require an investment of at least $130 million, and the benefits in reducing child poverty in Utah would be substantial. Our recent report on child care in Utah clearly illustrates the need for bold action to support families in the workforce, who are struggling with the cost and unavailability of child care. The Governor’s $5M project will help very few Utah families and does not address the true need.

Housing

$128 million for homeless shelters and $30 million for deeply affordable housing

We support the Governor in his effort to better support the homeless residents of our state. We encourage a greater focus on expanding support for homeless children specifically. Early care and education opportunities for young children as well as more supportive programs for their parents and caregivers are critical to helping families find stable housing and better future opportunities. Investing in deeply affordable housing will help many Utah families.

Behavioral/Mental Health 

$8 million for behavioral and mental health

This is not enough to address the current mental health needs of Utahns – in particular, those of our children and the folks tasked with raising them. We need more mental health professionals and greater access to services. We know this is a major concern for the Governor and we encourage increased strategic investment in this area.

It is also important to acknowledge and applaud some items the Governor wisely left out of his proposed budget:

No Proposed Tax Cuts 

Utahns want to see more invested in our children while they are young, to prevent greater challenges later in life. It is our children who suffer most, when politicians toss our tax dollars away on polices that mostly benefit the wealthiest 1% of Utah households.

No Proposed Funding for Vouchers

Public funds should not be redirected to private entities. Utah needs an annual audit of the current program, to assess who is benefitting from school vouchers. In other states, the results are not good – vouchers are looking more and more like a tax break for wealthy families.


Bold Investments Needed for Utah's Children

Governor Cox's budget focuses on increasing funding for education, families, and affordable housing.

These are all areas where we believe bold investment is needed. We support the Governor in addressing these issues, but cannot overlook how this budget falls short in the face of the ongoing struggles faced by Utah families with children.  

We encourage our Legislature to use the Governor’s budget as a roadmap and increase the allocations to the amount needed.

Published in News & Blog
January 10, 2024

Our 2024 Legislative Agenda

At Voices for Utah Children, we always start with this guiding question: "Is it good for all kids?" That remains our north star at the outset of the 2024 legislative session, and is reflected in our top legislative priorities.

So, what’s good for all kids in 2024?

A Healthy Start!

A healthy start in life ensures a child's immediate well-being while laying a foundation for future success. We are steadfast in our commitment to championing policies that prioritize every child's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Central to this commitment is our focus on improving Utah’s popular Medicaid and CHIP programs, which are pivotal in the lives of many Utah children and families. 

This legislative session, a healthy start for kids looks like:

  • Empowering Expectant Mothers: We support a proposal from Rep. Ray Ward (R-Bountiful) to increase access to health coverage for low-income and immigrant mothers-to-be.
  • Increasing Access to Health Care: We support bills that aim to improve access to the vital healthcare services children and parents need, especially for those on Medicaid and CHIP.
  • Protecting Health Coverage: We oppose any effort to defund, and exclude deserving children from, the Medicaid and CHIP programs that help thousands of Utah kids every year. 

Early Learning and Care Opportunities!

The formative years of a child's life lay the foundation for their future, shaping their cognitive abilities, socio-emotional skills, and passion for learning. We will support efforts to increase access to home visiting programs and paid family leave, but ensuring consistent, quality, and affordable child care is our top priority.

This legislative session, early learning and care opportunities for kids looks like:

  • Bolstering Access to Quality Child Care: We support the efforts of both Rep. Andrew Stoddard (D-Sandy) and Rep. Ashlee Matthews (D-Kearns) to extend the successful Office of Child Care stabilization grant program that has supported licensed child care programs statewide.
  • Investing in High-Quality Preschool: We support an anticipated legislative proposal to streamline Utah’s existing high-quality school-readiness program and to make it available to more preschoolers statewide. 
  • Recruiting and Retaining Child Care Professionals: We support Rep. Matthews’ proposal to expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program for anyone working in the child care sector.
  • Building New Child Care Businesses: We also support Rep. Matthews’ proposal to continue funding for work to develop and support new child care programs in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

To view a more comprehensive list of our 2024 early care and learning legislative priorities, click here

Economic Stability for Families with Children!

Economic stability forms the bedrock of thriving families and vibrant communities. To ensure that young families in Utah have the support they need to afford basic necessities, we will advocate for increasing families’ access to Utah's earned income and child tax credits.

This legislative session, economic stability for families looks like: 

  • A Little Extra Help in the Early Years: We support HB 153, Rep. Susan Pulsipher’s (R-South Jordan) bill to expand Utah’s new Child Tax Credit, (currently only for children ages 1 to 3), to apply to children between 1 and 5 years of age. We also strongly recommend helping even more Utah families with young children by making the tax credit available for families with any child between birth and 5, and expanding it to include the thousands of lower- and moderate-income families who are currently excluded.
  • Credit for Working Families with Kids: We support HB 149, Rep. Marsha Judkins’ (R-Provo) bill to expand Utah’s Earned Income Tax Credit so that more lower- and middle-income families with children can benefit. 

Justice for Youth!

We want to ensure that all youth, including those who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, have access to interventions and supports that work for them and for their families. We are dedicated to advancing policies and recommendations that contribute to a more fair and equitable juvenile justice system for all Utah youth.

This legislative session, justice for youth looks like:

  • Prioritizing School Safety: We are monitoring bills from Rep. Wilcox (R-Ogden) and the School Safety Task Force, including: HB 14, “School Threat Penalty Amendments” and HB 84, “School Safety Amendments.” We remain hopeful that these efforts will support a secure learning environment for all students, without contributing further to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. 

Be an Advocate!

As we chart the path forward, one thing remains abundantly clear: the well-being, growth, and future of Utah's children rely on the decisions we make today. Each legislative session presents an opportunity—a chance to reaffirm our commitment, reevaluate our priorities, and reimagine a brighter, more inclusive future for all. 

Together we can continue to make Utah a place where every child's potential is realized, their dreams are nurtured, and their voices are heard.

Below are some ways you can get involved this session. 

Stay Informed with our Bill Tracker

Stay informed about important legislation we are watching and reach out to your local representatives to let them know how you feel about legislation that is important to you. We make it easy for you to subscribe and watch bills that you are most concerned about. 

VIEW TRACKER

 

Join us for Legislative Session Days on the Hill

Join us at the Capitol, where we offer attendees the opportunity to engage in the legislative process on a specific issue area (health and/or child care). You'll have the chance to attend bill hearings, lobby your legislators, connect with fellow community advocates, and watch House and Senate floor debates. Click the button below for the dates/times of our meetings and to RSVP.

RSVP TODAY

 

Celebrate Utah's Immigrant Community 

In collaboration with our partners at UT With All Immigrants, the Center for Economic Opportunity and Belonging, and I Stand with Immigrants, we are organizing Immigrant Day on the Hill. Join us to discover ways to engage in Utah's civic life. Enjoy food, explore resource tables, participate in interactive activities, and entertainment. Everyone is invited to attend this free event!

Event Details: February 13, 2024, 3:30pm-5:30pm at the Capitol Rotunda, 350 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103

RSVP TODAY

Published in News & Blog

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Voices for Utah Children is proud to have co-hosted the momentous unveiling of the new State CHIP Program during our morning press conference. We are grateful to have worked with Senator Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) and Representative Jim Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) to support the passage of SB217: ChIldren’s Health Coverage Amendments that led to the creation of this program.

Voices for Utah Children's goal for every child in Utah to have health insurance and access to high-quality health care.

In our state, an estimated 7.9% of children in Utah do not have health insurance, with greater disparities amongst rural children and Latino children, placing Utah as 37th in the nation for insured children.

The State CHIP program will play a crucial role in bridging this gap by providing comprehensive healthcare coverage, so that children can access the medical care they need when they need to lead a healthier and more secure life. 

This State CHIP Program is one piece of that puzzle.

The State CHIP program provides newly eligible children with comprehensive healthcare coverage, including well-child exams, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health services, and more, supporting more kids to have the opportunity to grow and thrive because of the access to coverage.

We are excited to continue working with Senator Escamilla, Rep. Jim Dunnnigan, and our 100% Kids Coverage Coalition, community and faith leaders, healthcare systems and providers, and more to outreach to all of our Utah families throughout the state so children get the health coverage and care they need. We know that this program will make a positive impact on many Utah families statewide and will get us closer to the goal of having all Utah kids covered.

Let’s get all Utah kiddos covered!

For more information about State CHIP for non-US citizens starting January 1, 2024 click here.

For more information about the new State CHIP program visit: https://chip.health.utah.gov/.

For more information about our 100% Kids Coverage Coalition visit: https://www.100percentkids.health/.

Published in News & Blog

Most of us don't enjoy paying taxes. We do it, though, because pooling our money together through taxes makes it possible for us to have roads, schools, libraries and parks, fire fighters and law enforcement, and so many more public goods that none of us could afford on our own. 

Tax policy (the ways we choose to collect taxes) impacts everyone, and often in many different ways. You may have very recently paid sales tax on your groceries, gas tax at the pump, property taxes on your home or through your rent, and of course, income tax on the money you earn.

From state to state, tax policy is unique; no two states collect taxes the same way. Tax policy also changes a lot over time. Different types of taxes affect people differently, depending on whether they have higher or lower incomes. 

Some tax policies and structures promote fairness and equity. Other approaches to taxes contribute to social inequality. When tax policies burden lower-income people more than very wealthy people, who can more easily afford to pay higher taxes, we consider that unfair.  Sometimes those kinds of tax policies are called "regressive." 

States with the most unfair tax structures typically have:

  • have no or little income tax,
  • have no refundable tax credits, and 
  • rely on high sales and excise* taxes.

How Fair is Utah's Tax Structure? 

Analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows that in Utah, low- and middle-income families pay more of their income in taxes than the wealthiest households. 

We judge Utah's tax fairness holistically, by looking at all the taxes that are paid by families at different income levels. This is the "effective tax rate," or the share of overall household income a family spends on income, sales/excise and property taxes in a year. The table below shows the effective tax rate of Utah households, depending on how much income they earn each year. 

In Utah, 20% of families make less than $23,000 per year. These families pay approximately 7.5% of their total income in state and local taxes. By comparison, the top 1% of Utah families - which are earning more than $487,000 per year - pay an effective tax rate of only 6.6%. 

But the Utah families who pay the most in taxes are those in the middle. Middle-income households (making between $40,000 and $104,000 per year) have an effective income tax rate from 8.1% to 8.8% - the highest effective tax rate of all income levels. 

tax fairness graph

Effective Tax Rate 1Towards Fairness: Tax Credits that Actually Work for Working Families

One way to make our state tax structure more fair is through carefully constructed income tax credits. When tax credits cut out families that pay less in income tax - like our non-refundable Earned Income and Child Tax Credits - then the families who are struggling most, benefit the least. Some legislators argue that families who don't pay as much income tax don't "deserve" to fully benefit from tax credits. But those families clearly pay more in overall taxes than any other income group.  

Babies don't pay any taxes - but the households they live in do. Working families with young children deserve a tax system that supports them as they care for and raise the future leaders of our state. Having a fair tax structure in Utah means making sure children, and the households they are living in, have enough money to afford the things they need.

Learn How Better Income Tax Credits Help Families


Glossary

Effective Tax Rate: the share of income a family spends on taxes. This is calculated by dividing the amount families pay in taxes by their annual household income. 

* Excise Tax: a tax directly levied on certain goods by a state, such as fuel, liquor, or cell phone plans. They are paid by the merchant before the goods can be sold and passed to the consumer through higher prices before the sales tax is added.

Nonrefundable Tax Credit: reduces the taxes owed - allows a taxpayer to only receive a reduction of their tax liability until it reaches zero.

Refundable Tax Credit: allows a taxpayer to receive a refund if the credit they receive is greater than their tax liability.

Tax Credit: a dollar-for-dollar amount that a taxpayer claims on their tax return to reduce the income tax they owe. You can use this to reduce your tax bill and potentially increase your refund amount.

Tax Liability: the amount of taxes owed by a taxpayer to the government before taking into account allowable tax credits.

Tax Policy: policies that determine how we to collect taxes. 

Sources

Published in News & Blog

January 26th is Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day!  The EITC is a vital tool in reducing child poverty, and improving the long-term outcomes for children across our state.

Some tax policies - like the EITC - promote fairness and equity. Others make social inequality worse - we call those policies “regressive;” Regressive policies disproportionately hurt lower-income individuals while disproportionately benefiting rich people. That simply isn’t fair.

Utah was ranked 29 out of 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) in a recently released report from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) —-ITEP uses a “tax inequality index” to measure the effects of each state’s tax system on income inequality.  Data from ITEP shows that lower and middle-income households pay a larger portion of their income in taxes overall, when compared to wealthier households. Middle-class families pay the highest effective tax rate (income tax, sales tax, other taxes and fees), while the wealthiest 1% of Utah households pay the least of all (see table below).  

Screenshot 2024 01 24 at 9.13.59 PM

 

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Utah is one of only five states that excludes the poorest working families from benefiting from their state EITC, by making their EITC non-refundable. By contrast, many states have taken steps to ensure that their state EITC includes as many low- and middle-income families as possible. In 2024, Utah legislators will have a chance to help more Utah families, too - by making our state EITC refundable. 

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Support HB 149: Make Utah's EITC Refundable!

This year, Representative Marsha Judkins (R-Provo) is championing HB149, which would transform Utah’s EITC into a refundable credit. This bold change will help many more families to afford essential necessities for their children's well-being, such as food, clothing and medical care.

On this EITC Awareness Day, let's make some noise! Reach out to your state legislators, remind them why this policy is impactful for families and children, and help us advocate for a more fair and equitable tax system.

To learn more about the Earned Income Tax Credit, see here

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When it comes to improving the lives of hardworking Utahns, we need policies that help those who are struggling to make ends meet. A refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) could do just that.

Let's start by discussing what the earned income tax credit is and how it benefits working families and children.

What is an Earned Income Tax Credit?

You may already know about the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- and moderate-income working people, that was created to support people who are in the workforce but need extra support to meet their families' needs. To claim the federal EITC, you must have earned income and everyone on your tax return must have a social security number.

The amount of your credit will be determined by your family's earnings, as well as the number of children you have. The EITC credit may help to reduce the amount you owe on your federal taxes - and if the EITC amount is higher than the federal taxes you own, you can actually get money back from the government. 

The EITC is a critical policy tool to support financial stability in working families. Even just a few hundred dollars a year can help families stay current on bills, purchase groceries, afford car repairs, or pay down debt.

How does Utah's Earned Income Tax Credit work? 

Because the federal EITC has been so effective at supporting working families, many states have created their own Earned Income Tax Credits in order to help these families even more. Currently 31 states offer a state EITC. Utah enacted a limited EITC for families with children in 2022.

Calculating your state Earned Income Tax Credit amount in Utah is easy: it will be 20% of whatever your federal EITC amount is when you file both your federal and state taxes. However, due to the way it was structured by the state legislature, Utah's EITC currently excludes many hardworking families who should benefit. Edited EITC states graph

Our state EITC's biggest limitation is that it is "non-refundable." Utah is one of only five states with this exclusionary policy. Unlike the federal EITC, Utah's tax credit can only be applied to the income taxes you owe. You will never receive any money back from claiming the state EITC. Unless your state taxes add up to the amount of the state EITC you are allowed to claim, or more than that amount, your family misses out on the full benefit. 

A refundable state EITC is a simple and cost-effective way to level the playing field for Utah families. These days, families who don't make a lot of money struggle to afford to live and raise a family in Utah. Especially for families with young children, who are just starting out in their careers, every little bit of extra financial support really helps. 

State leaders say that our state EITC is meant to provide a maximum benefit for working families with children, with annual (adjusted) incomes between $11,000 and $26,000. Imagine a family with two young children, where one parent is still in college, and the other parent works only 32 hours a week. Because Utah's EITC is not refundable, none of the struggling families in this income range will see any benefit from the tax credit. 

Though they don't make a lot of money, these people actually pay more taxes, as a percent of their income, than the wealthiest people in Utah. These hard-working families deserve a refundable state tax credit.

Our state EITC policy also requires that your earned income must be reported on a W-2 form, as proof of your work. This requirement means the state EITC can't be claimed by self-employed people, people who work on contract and people who participate in the "gig economy" (such as driving for Lyft or watching pets through Rover). Even though these workers may be eligible for the federal EITC, they can't benefit from the state credit because they don't receive a W-2 to recognize their hard work. 

What is Refundability? 

A refundable tax credit means that if the amount of the credit is more than the amount of taxes you own, you can get the extra amount back as a refund payment! 

A non-refundable tax credit means that the amount of the credit can only ever offset the amount of taxes you owe. You can't benefit from any portion in excess of the income tax you owe, and you can't carry any unused portion of the credit over into another tax year. 

Here's how this difference plays out in Utah for a married couple with two children, filing their taxes jointly. In this hypothetical family, one parent earns $39,000 working full-time (about $19/hr), and they only owe $200 in state income tax. If Utah’s EITC were refundable, they would realize the full benefit of the credit by receiving a refund of $300. Because our state EITC is non-refundable, that $300 just disappears. After it cancels out the $200 in taxes the family owes, Utah's EITC stops working. 

EITC example

In the coming year, legislators have the opportunity to empower working families in Utah with a much better Earned Income Tax Credit. By making our state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refundable, state leaders could tangibly enhance the lives of these families, providing them with essential financial support needed for their daily well-being. If you're curious about the significance of equitable tax policies and the intricate web of tax distribution, learn more by following the link provided below. 

Learn More About Tax Fairness


Glossary

Tax Credit: a dollar-for-dollar amount that a taxpayer (s) claim on their tax return to reduce the income tax they owe. You can use this to reduce your tax bill and potentially increase your refund amount.

Tax Liability: the amount of taxes owed by a taxpayer to the government before taking into account allowable tax credits.

Nonrefundable Tax Credit: reduces the taxes you owe --- allows a taxpayer to only receive a reduction of their tax liability until it reaches zero.

Refundable Tax Credit: allows a taxpayer to receive a refund if the credit they receive is greater than their tax liability.

Sources

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