Salt Lake, County Council, District 2, Deborah Gatrell

1. What did you do to help with the Utah 2019 Tax Referendum? I attended the May 2019 Tax Reform Committee meeting and many of their meeting throughout the summer and Fall, culminating with the December special session where SB2001 was passed into law. That was heart breaking. Once I found out there would be a referendum, I donated several times towards printing, practically beat down Judy’s door to get my first packets, wrote an Opinion piece in the Tribune encouraging folks to sign the petition and set up two local signing events at the Magna library before Harmons and Associated Foods jumped in. I also talked my father (he filled 3 packets) and a handful of friends into collecting signatures as well. Jeff White asked me to speak at a Ballpark community meeting in Salt Lake City, so I helped there too. I took as many shifts as I could at Harmons in Kearns then plugged gaps in West Valley Harmons and Kearns stores in addition to walking around 3 schools where I have a lot of teacher friends (before or after school hours, of course). It was thrilling to turn in packets several times and see so much excitement! I turned in my final packets with just hours to spare – final tally 415 signatures (8 full and 2 partial packets).

2. What is your position of taxes on food and gasoline? They both need to be phased out. Food should not be taxed at all. If that’s not something the Legislature can stomach, they should start by exempting all food that qualifies for purchase with SNAP and WIC from sales tax. I do understand folks using those supports aren’t taxed on those purchases, but there a lot of people close to the edge who don’t use those supports and are deeply harmed by the tax. Gasoline taxes haven’t covered the cost of roads for decades. I know there are pilot programs for a mileage use tax, but even that isn’t a great solution. It requires big data tracking and especially harms rural Utahns. I wouldn’t mind it being an option, but another option could be a flat fee, similar to registration fees, but different with the option to pay it over time. That’s essentially what the gas tax is (a road tax paid over time), except a lot of vehicles escape paying their fair share because of the gradual transition away from fossil fuels and long term increase in fuel efficiency.

3. What if any taxes would you implement on services and why? I’m reluctant to add new taxes, but I do recognize the shift to a service-based economy is real. In exchange for removing taxes from food, I’d accept a shift in taxes to some DISCRETIONARY services. Streaming media did replace movie rentals, which were taxed, and this was a favorite example of the Tax Reform committee. We already tax a number of utilities, but those taxes should be strictly used for the maintenance of those essential services. More importantly, we need to take a harder look at tax exemptions and giveaways, especially to corporations. There is a place for RDA tax increment, but it should be strictly monitored, and we should have very strict criteria for tax incentives to businesses that then leave residents on the hook for major infrastructure projects necessary to support all of the associated growth. Clawback provisions should be included in all of those agreements.

  4. Many Utahns felt that after the town halls and committee meetings that the legislative tax task force held throughout 2019 that their concerns were not heard and that special interests wielded too much influence. On the other hand, many legislators felt that the people didn’t understand the issue or the solutions that they put forth. If elected, how would you respond to the concerns and issues that your constituents bring to you and how would you educate them on the issues you are dealing with? I believe in transparency. Sunshine is great disinfectant. If there are hard deadlines, then backwards planning to ensure sufficient time to complete steps is required. That must be communicated. I am already available over multiple social media platforms. If elected, I will communicate regularly with constituents through social media, newsletters, my blog, in person meetings, and direct communications when constituents raise specific issues. I’ve always been a ‘helper,’ in the Fred Rogers description of the term. As a teacher, I’m skilled in understanding a wide range of perspectives and connecting a broad swath of information so I can break things down in simple terms and find creative solutions.

5. Are you willing to vote against bills that legislative leadership wants you to support even when threatened with losing coveted committee positions, having your legislation held hostage, etc? Explain I will absolutely vote against legislation I think is wrong, even if there is pressure from leadership. My personal integrity is too valuable to ever violate. “This is America… Here, right matters.” I also learned from a former Representative at a Real Women Run training that it’s crucial to stand your ground on principle, lest special interests figure out you can be “bought.”

6. Are you in favor of the Utah School Income Tax Constitutional Amendment that will be voted on in November? Why or not. I probably support the proposed Income Tax Constitutional Amendment, as I fully recognize the need to fund critical services beyond Education. At the same time, I’ve witnessed a gradual steady decrease in commitment to funding education over the past 20 years in Utah, because there was higher commitment to adjustments to income taxes and property taxes that reduced growth in the Education Fund. Then it took a full 10 years for Education to recover from the Great Recession after accounting for growth and inflation. Because continued minimum funding guarantees for Education will now be in statutory language, which is easily undone, I’m nervous about what this means in the current economic meltdown. I will be watching the next Special Session in April very closely. As long as the Legislature demonstrates actual commitment to continuing to maintain (during the crisis) and then increase Education funding to meet critical needs, I will support the Constitutional Amendment.

7. Name one reason you are the best candidate for the position you signed for. As an Army brat, Veteran, pilot, and school teacher, I bring a broad perspective to the questions of the day. I handle big picture and small details equally well, and have training and experience in the crucial operational planning level where the big picture and small details are tied together.