Tax and Budget

As the November elections approach, one crucial issue on the ballot is the proposed amendment to end the constitutional mandate Utah voters passed decades ago, directing the legislature to use state income tax to fund public education. This proposal will show up on your ballot as Amendment A, and it is based on SJR10, Proposal to Amend the Utah Constitution - Income Tax [1], which passed during the 2023 legislative session.  

Voices for Utah Children is opposed to this change to Utah’s constitution. Here’s why. 

Utahns Approved the Constitutional Education Funding Mandate Nearly 80 Years Ago

Utah implemented its state income tax in 1932. In 1946, voters approved a Constitutional amendment that created the education funding mandate, allocating all income tax revenue exclusively for K-12 public education. This changed in 1996 when another amendment allowed higher education to dip into the income tax pot. And again, in 2020, Amendment G passed, which expanded the use of income tax revenue for social services supporting children and individuals with disabilities[2].

Think of Utah’s constitutional mandate (sometimes referred to as an “earmark”) as setting aside a portion of your paycheck specifically for your child’s school supplies, textbooks, and educational needs. The mandate ensures that a certain amount of public funding is always dedicated to supporting schools and students, helping to maintain academic quality, and providing necessary resources. 

Amendment A would remove this mandate, allowing state legislators to redirect this designated funding elsewhere, as they see fit.

This Change to Our Constitution Poses a Threat to Utah Schools  

Utahns feel a strong commitment to public education. According to Utah Foundation polling, public education consistently ranks as a top issue for Utah voters[3]. With over 90% of Utah's school-aged children attending public schools, many Utahns express positive views about their own schools. The proposal to change Utah’s constitutional education funding mandate does not reflect the priorities of the majority of Utahns in support of public education. 

Utah’s constitutional mandate for public education funding ensures a dedicated source of funding for public education for Utah children. If Amendment A passes and the constitutional mandate is removed, it could undermine the quality of Utah's public education. Our state's children need consistent and dedicated funding to maintain high educational standards and to ensure equitable access across different regions and demographics​. 

Our commitment to funding public education is enshrined in our state constitution. The legislature’s desire to change this is a significant issue that should not be taken lightly. Amendment A creates uncertainty around your child’s school funding. For example, for fiscal year 2025, individual income tax revenue is projected to be around $7.3 billion[4]. Without the clarity of Utah’s constitutional mandate, these funds can be easily diverted away from public education, leaving Utah’s children and teachers without essential support[5]. Already, state leaders have cut the income tax year after year, reducing funding that could be invested in our children's futures.

The Likely Impacts of Changing Our Constitution 

Funding Instability: Without the constitutional mandate directing the legislature to spend our income taxes on public education, state education funding could become subject to political whims. 

Increased Property Taxes: If the constitutional mandate is removed and the legislature reduces school funding, school districts will need to compensate for the lost revenue by increasing property taxes. This challenge would be even greater for rural districts, where the property tax base is limited. These less prosperous school districts may be unable to cover the shortfall. 

Equity Concerns: Utah’s current method of funding public education helps to balance educational opportunities across our varied communities. Some school districts are able to raise a lot of money, through wealthy residents with high-end property. Other school districts do not have access to that level of wealth, and rely on state funding to ensure equitable opportunities for their students. Removing the constitutional mandate could exacerbate inequalities.

Uncertain Future Funding Plans: If the constitutional mandate is removed, legislators must provide clear answers on how education will be funded. Without specific, transparent plans, there is a significant risk that public education funding would be deprioritized.

The Connection Between Amendment A and School Vouchers

Utah’s new school voucher program is also part of this equation. The school voucher program will allow thousands of Utah families to use taxpayer dollars to send their children to private school. The legislature has diverted over $80 million to this school privatization effort since its inception in 2023 - doubling the initial investment before even a single voucher had been awarded to any Utah families. It's important to note that lawmakers initially requested $150 million, signaling their intention to continue diverting public funds away from public education[6].

Lawmakers have made it clear that they plan to continue to increase funding for vouchers, regardless of program outcomes. If the constitutional amendment to fund public education is removed, the flow of resources away from neighborhood public schools and toward private schools could intensify. This will likely reduce the quality and equity of public education that 90% of Utah's children rely on[7]. 

What Lies Ahead? 

The removal of Utah’s constitutional mandate and years of income tax rate cutting have long-term implications for public education. Utah schools still have large class sizes and lack an adequate number of paraeducators, counselors, and nurses. Ending the constitutional mandate could potentially affect everything from teacher salaries and school infrastructure to student performance and community well-being. 

Is Amendment A good for kids? These serious and potential impacts lead us to believe that it is not. Voices for Utah Children is opposed to changing Utah’s constitution in a way that puts our state on the path toward defunding public education. We hope that you will oppose it, as well. 

Endnotes 

[1] Utah Legislature. "S.J.R. 10 Proposal to Amend the Utah Constitution - Income Tax." Accessed June 21, 2024. https://le.utah.gov/~2023/bills/static/SJR010.html.

[2] Romboy, Dennis. "Utah's Constitutional Amendment to Change How State Funds Education." Deseret News, October 5, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2024. https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/10/5/21502931/amendment-g-constitutional-amendment-education-child-advocates-say-doesnt-add-up/.

[3]  "Utah Priorities Project Report: 2024," Utah Foundation, April 2024, https://www.utahfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/rr819.pdf.

[4]  Utah Legislature. "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 2023." Accessed June 21, 2024. https://cobi.utah.gov/2024/1/overview.

[5]  Voices for Utah Children. "What Does Eliminating Utah's Income Tax Mean for Kids?" Accessed June 21, 2024. https://utahchildren.org/newsroom/speaking-of-kids-blog/item/1249-income-tax-elimination-kids-impact.

[6] Utah Legislature. "House Bill 215 - Utah Fits All Scholarship Program." Accessed June 21, 2024. https://le.utah.gov/~2023/bills/static/HB0215.html

[7] Utah News Dispatch. "Teacher union files lawsuit against Utah FITS All School Choice Voucher Program." Accessed July 3, 2024. https://utahnewsdispatch.com/2024/05/29/teacher-union-files-lawsuit-against-utah-fits-all-school-choice-voucher-program/.

Published in News & Blog

The 2024 Utah Legislative Session ended at midnight on Friday, March 1. For the Voices for Utah Children team, this session included supporting a lot of community engagement, working hard to protect the programs that protect Utah kids, and trying not to get distracted by outlandish efforts to "solve" problems that don't actually exist in Utah.

As usual, there were many, many missed opportunities for state leaders to improve the lives of Utah kids. Nonetheless, we managed to pull off some great victories - as always, in partnership with many supportive community members, our great partner organizations and supportive public servants.

We hosted six different public engagement events at the Capitol over seven weeks. Working closely with our community partners, we stopped some truly terrible legislation that literally threatened the lives of Utah kids who rely on Medicaid and CHIP. Thanks to many supportive child care professionals and working parents, we kept Utah's child care crisis in the media spotlight throughout the session. 

For a deeper dive into our efforts in various policy areas, as well as a recap of what happened to the many different bills we were tracking, check out the virtual booklet below! 

Download a Copy

The original version of this legislative recap misidentified the city of residence of a member of the Utah State Legislature. This has been corrected. For more information, please contact .

Published in News & Blog

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