Utah State Representative Kera Birkeland is making a push to address the growing concerns of older residents about rising property taxes by championing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize the state’s first-ever lottery. Birkeland believes that legalizing the lottery could bring in up to $200 million in revenue for Utah, money that is currently being spent in neighboring states where lotteries are already legal, such as Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona.
According to KSL, the aim of the proposal is to use the funds generated from the lottery to alleviate the financial strain on seniors facing escalating property taxes. This move has sparked a broader conversation about the intersection of gambling practices, fiscal policies, and the unique challenges posed by Utah’s comprehensive ban on all forms of gambling. Utah and Hawaii are the only states where any form of gambling is strictly prohibited.
Birkeland argues that the ban on gambling has deprived the state of a significant revenue stream, impacting seniors who are being forced to sell their homes due to soaring property tax bills. While the full details of the bill are yet to be unveiled, Birkeland is considering including a stipulation that mandates tax revenue from lottery sales be dedicated to offsetting the tax burden on older adults with fixed incomes.
However, the proposal faces a significant hurdle, as a constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers and approval by a majority of voters in the upcoming general election.
Despite not having the authority to veto constitutional amendments, Governor Spencer Cox has voiced his opposition to lotteries and gambling, stating that he believes they function as taxes on individuals who struggle with mathematics, causing more harm than good.
Despite the challenges and opposition, Birkeland is determined to push the bill forward, emphasizing the need to address the primary concern of her constituents regarding property taxes. She recognizes the challenging nature of the endeavor but maintains her determination, asserting that she has introduced several bills attempting to limit property taxes and decrease government spending, yet none of them has gained traction.
Birkeland’s proposal reignites the ongoing debate on gambling laws in Utah, with past endeavors facing significant resistance. Her initiative signals a potential shift in the state’s stance on gambling, setting the stage for a contentious legislative session.