Pat Jones’ SB 118 is a tax raise on families [Publius Online]

mother and childrenSenator Pat Jones proposal to raise taxes on families with children to send more money to Utah teachers sounds like a way to boost education dollars. In reality, Jones’ $400 million proposal takes from those who need it most:

Families with children, especially those with lower incomes.

If passed, the bill would create jobs in education and allow schools to shrink class sizes by hiring new educators, Jones said.

Well intentioned and guaranteed to raise over $400 million for education,  the proposal is never the less misguided and would prove to be harmful to families, especially young families in lower and middle class income brackets. As the more policy wonkish might put it, the bill is in the net a regressive change to the tax code.  Keeping family spending constant, this will hit low and middle incomes far harder than upper income families.

At a time when families are getting started and breadwinners are in the early, lower paying years of their careers, Jones’ proposal will diminish the income that parents can use to provide for housing, food, and transportation.

Senator Pat JonesWe all benefit when a child is born, even if that benefit is so distant as one more person to pay into social security, to say nothing of all of the human potential in that one person. By raising the taxes paid by parents, Jones proposal won’t just raise money for education, but will add to the burden carried by those who can bear it the least.

In addition to ending tax exemptions for families with children, Jones’ proposal would also redistribute money to poorer districts, bypassing even the State Office of Education. The proposal brings in more money (it is a tax increase), but it still redistributes money.

Ironically, earlier this year Jones’ criticized a proposal that would have equalized money between poorer and richer districts as a “Robin Hood” proposal.

“This takes existing monies and makes people winners or losers depending on what district you’re in,” Jones said.

It’s an ironic twist: a Democrat is proposing that the users of government services pay for the services, rather than that society as a whole should bear the burden of helping the more vulnerable.

At a time when the cost of living is rising faster than wages, when the middle class is finding home ownership increasingly distant, when unemployment nationally remains stubbornly above 7%, and when a staggering–and rising–number of young adults live at home with their parents, Jones’ has remarkably found a way to raise the barriers to having children.

Rather than encouraging families to have more children, grow the labor force and maintain the population growth necessary to maintain economic growth, Jones’ proposal would raise the cost of living, directly and deliberately, especially for lower and middle incomes.

Raising educator incomes does make sense–Utah has high teacher turnover, especially at the three year mark–but doing so at the cost of those who can least afford it is a strategy that will boomerang, hurting families’ budgets while only marginally raising teacher incomes. And if we’ve learned nothing, it’s that what happens at home is just as important as what happens at school. We have to find another way to make sure teachers are fairly compensated.

Utah has done relatively well during the recent years of economic turmoil, in large part because  its growing population, lower cost of living, large families, and better educated workforce. If we are to improve education, we need to take a hard look at methods, technologies, funding, curriculum, and every other facet of education.

Raising taxes on Utah parents, though, is a non-starter.

Instead of helping families, Jones’ proposal puts teachers ahead of the children they are supposed to be teaching.

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