Here is American Fork City Council candidate Ken Sumsion‘s answer to one of the questions I sent to all the candidates, presented here unedited and without comment except for this one. I enjoyed this in his e-mail: “I figure [a] 170 word question should be granted more than 100 word response.”

Truth in Taxation

Q: Utah’s Truth in Taxation law, as intentionally crafted by the legislature, slowly strangles local government budgets by ignoring inflation in calculating certified tax rates. Unless a local government implements regular small property tax increases (as the law requires them to be called, even if the tax rate decreases from year to year), it can’t even break even from year to year in real, inflation-adjusted dollars. (Such regular, small increases have been the common practice of the Alpine School District.) When a strangling city finally cannot wait anymore, has to adopt a large tax increase just to catch up. Is Truth in Taxation, as structured, a good thing? Would annual, small, so-called tax increases be wise for American Fork, to keep up with inflation? Would you support and advocate the legislature amending the law to index certified tax rates for inflation, to reduce or remove the problem?

A: This question is an example of a push poll, which is a type of survey that tries to influence the respondents’ opinions by using loaded or suggestive questions. A more impartial question would be: “What is your position on Utah’s Truth in Taxation law? Are you for or against it? Why?”

As a former State Representative, I support the Truth in Taxation law for the following reasons:

  1. It prevents taxing entities from automatically increasing their total tax revenue from one year to the next. This means that taxpayers are not subject to hidden tax hikes every year, and that they have more control over their money (family budget).
  2. It requires taxing entities to disclose to taxpayers in a specific way the tax percentage increase. This means that taxpayers are informed about how much more they will pay in taxes, and why they will pay more.
  3. It mandates taxing entities to hold public meetings to allow for public input and to explain why the tax increase is necessary. This means that taxpayers have a voice in the decision-making process, and that they can hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.
  4. It encourages elected officials to be leaders who can justify their decisions and gain acceptance from voters if possible. This means that elected officials have to be transparent and honest about their motives and goals, and that they have to persuade voters with rational arguments and evidence.
  5. It provides a check and balance on local governments, which do not have separation of powers like the state and federal governments (e.g., senate, house of representatives, and governor). It is very easy for two (Utah county) or three (small city) elected officials to spend millions of dollars without much public scrutiny. Often, the only restraint (not much) on taxing entities are state laws.

However, I understand that there are different views on this law and I would love to more fully discuss them as well as studies done by Utah Foundation, Utah Taxpayers Association and some Deseret News articles.

Thanks, Mr. Sumsion!

Thanks to everyone for reading. If you’re a voter, you have until Tuesday, September 5, to mail or drop off your ballot. Please Learn BEFORE You Vote.

Answers are also posted from Clark Taylor, Tim Holley, Elizabeth Gray, Austin Duke, and Christina Ballard. And don’t miss John Mulholland’s report of his interviews with most of the candidates.

Watch for answers from other candidates and more information and opinion coming soon. If you’re one of the candidates who hasn’t sent answers to the questions I sent, the invitation is still open.