— 1. What did you do to help with the Utah 2019 Tax Referendum? —
I was shocked to see a bill as important and complex as HB441 be rushed so late in the 2019 Session. I followed this bill closely as Natural Resources Director for the Women’s State Legislative Council. I stayed informed and engaged early on by attending reform hearings such as the August Silicon Slopes Town Hall and the December Special Session hearings. After the tax reform passed, I was invigorated to see our communities come together and grateful for citizen groups who mobilized to fight the bill. I quickly joined the efforts in distributing signature booklets, gathering signatures and even testified in opposition during the final hearing against the bill.
I followed this bill closely, I spoke out against it at the legislature and worked side by side with the community to ensure it was repealed.
— 2. What is your position of taxes on food and gasoline? —
Because food is a necessity, food costs are a higher portion of budgets for people with lower incomes. I am opposed to taxes on food for this reason. Gasoline tax is used to help pay for roads and transportation costs, but have recently only covered about 1/3 of those costs. At the end of the August Silicone Slopes Tax Reform Town Hall, I heard past Senate President Neiderhauser say that a 50 cent per gallon gas tax would be needed to adequately cover road construction and maintenance costs. Obviously, none of us want that much tax added to gasoline, but this illustrates how out of balance the current tax revenue stream has become. This is a difficult problem that has been allowed to go unsolved for many years. We need to find a user-based solution to road maintenance. For example, freight trucks that heavily impact our local roadways use diesel. That diesel could be taxed at a higher rate. Businesses using the roads for commerce should be taxed to cover their usage demands. No solution will be easy or popular, but roads are necessary for a productive society.
— 3. What if any taxes would you implement on services and why? —
By the end of the 2019 special session it was glaringly clear that tax reform changes were targeting small business in Utah. These small businesses couldn’t afford lobbyists and would find themselves plagued by the complexities of the taxation laws.
Our goal should be to keep taxation as clear and simple as possible. I do not support taxing services. I want the small businesses that comprise the majority of Utah’s companies and nearly half our workforce to thrive, not bumble in confusing red tape and impractical taxation policies.
— 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 agree with the public that it definitely appears special interests wielded too much influence. As a citizen, I receive emails from several legislators updating me on bills and important issues. I plan to send these types of informational emails to our district and anyone interested. Representative Suzanne Harris held weekly town halls during the legislative session, allowing people to ask questions and become more informed about bills being presented. I would follow her example and have town halls, either virtually or at the local library. I will also use social media to share important issues and bills that will affect people. Public education is critical as it prepares us as citizens. Our budget and plans should reflect our state’s support of education always.
— 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 —
Yes. I love to see people from both sides of the aisle come together on issues, however, that doesn’t always happen. As a retired military wife and mother, I am not one who gets pushed around easily. I have a strong sense of integrity and will work to support our district’s values. I will not vote in favor or bills I disagree with. I believe that legislators need to choose what is best for our communities long term success and not be influenced by short term or personal gains.
— 6. Are you in favor of the Utah School Income Tax Constitutional Amendment that will be voted on in November? Why or not? —
No. The tax reform did nothing to address the funding of education. That was a huge red flag for me. Our children’s education is an investment, not an afterthought.
In November, we will vote on removing education’s constitutional earmark. Some people support this change because an accompanying bill promises funding for education, which has been inadequate even with the constitutional earmark. However, this is a bill and future legislation could remove the funding that is promised. When resources are tight, as we will face due to current health and business challenges, it will be tempting for the legislature to cut funding to education. For this reason, I am opposed to the change that will be offered on the November ballot.
— 7. Name one reason you are the best candidate for the position you signed for. —
I have studied the bills and issues facing our state for the last seven years. My desire is to listen to the people in our district, serve my fellow citizens, and find the best possible solutions to the critical problems we face. I made it through the party convention because of the level of my involvement and my ability to work with a wide range of people. I will build a bipartisan consensus and be a representative for all our constituents.
— Email —
My name is Gay Lynn Bennion, and I’m honored to be a candidate for House District 46. My commitment to become an engaged citizen was born when my husband was called to deploy to the Middle East, days after 9/11. As a strong military wife and mother, circumstances demanded that my focus remain on our young children and supporting our community at our stationed home.
After retiring, my husband and I were finally able to return home to Utah. Now, more than ever, I felt compelled to dedicate myself to serving my community. I joined the Women’s State Legislative Council of Utah, where I have served for the past seven years. I met and learned from some of the best and brightest women and men in the Council, many of whom have led the PTA, run for local and state-wide offices, worked in educational and healthcare fields, and serve as community leaders.
I’ve coordinated presentations for WSLC’s nonpartisan Council to hear both sides of important legislation objectively. This allowed me to see first-hand the commitment of members of the Utah Legislature. Often members of either party are eager to speak with us, squeezing in time to address our group during an already packed day.
During my involvement with different initiatives, I have attended official proceedings, sometimes one of a few citizens present with the lawyers and leaders. I am passionate about getting more Utahns engaged in the voting and legislative process. I have gathered signatures for efforts I support or oppose, and helped with the three 2018 propositions that voters approved, which were later challenged or changed by the legislature.
I was surprised to learn that our leadership had not been adequately listening to the people and brought forward such an ill suited tax reform. To add insult to injury, it was introduced late in the 2019 session.
I was excited to see citizen groups take notice and push back against the bill. I attended the tax reform town halls. They were presented as listening sessions, but to my dismay, were actually opportunities to share the tax income categories and a plan of action. Rather than capitalizing on the ability of income tax to begin to ensure and improve funding for education, the goal was to lower the income tax and not openly address future funding of education.
I sat with teachers during those hearings, teachers who had come to the Capitol after long days teaching, bringing their own children along. I heard a Kearns teacher, who runs a food pantry from her classroom, plead for secure funding of education and help for those in poverty. I heard another teacher share the analogy of funding and building a new school before destroying the adequate old one, expressing concern that no funding for real or practical education was being addressed. I heard the passionate concerns of those around me, however, the majority of the legislature did not.
After we accomplished what many considered the impossible, by gathering over 150,000 signatures for the referendum in less than 6 weeks, they finally heard the apprehensions of citizens, news providers and other groups. The elephant in the room was finally recognized. They withdrew the tax proposal.
I was proud to be a part of this movement. I was not alone. This referendum reached across the board. It brought many Utahns to action, regardless of their race, religion, color, sex or economic background. This was an outpouring of Utahns. These are the people that I hope to serve. Let me do my best to represent you.
Gay Lynn Bennion – Accountable Balanced Representation for House District 46