In January 1923, for the steep price of one cent per copy, the first edition of Utah Taxpayer, the monthly newsletter of the Utah Taxpayers Association, was published. This first edition, photographed in its entirety below, lamented the rising cost of government and promised to be “exact, painstaking and fearless in making its investigations, presenting its findings and offering its counsel”. Neither its principle concern nor its objective has changed in the 100 years since the first edition. Published monthly – though now in digital form – the Utah Taxpayer has offered a critique on proposed tax hikes and spending proposals, advocated for tax cuts, and acted as a chronicle of tax-related decisions in Utah over the last century.
Highlights from the first edition include:
The Pyramid, showing the increase of tax revenues from 1916 to 1922. Though the numbers seem laughable now – $8.8 million to $17.1 million – this is a 45% increase over seven years, and a similar percentage increase (53%) was seen in ongoing state spending between 2017 and 2022.
Outlining the rules by which taxes should be assessed and collected, as follows:
- Taxes should be levied according to the ability of people to pay, or in proportion to the financial benefits derived from the government.
- Taxes should be certain, clearly reckoned, equitable, and not arbitrary.
- Taxes ought to be payable at a time most convenient to the majority of those who pay.
- Every tax should be so contrived as to take and keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible.
- Taxation should be restricted as to limits of property valuation, or the rate of levy defined by law.
The Association continues to measure tax proposals by these criteria.
Governor Mabey’s Message discussed the many demands on the taxpayers’ dollar from various taxing entities. He also discussed the evolving and costly needs of the state, including roads, education, and administration. He concludes, “we have beautified our cities and towns and made them better places to live in. But all these improvements have added heavier responsibilities upon government and have been the main cause for our ever-enlarging tax problem.” His words ring just as true today as in 1923.
In the section that is titled, “Economy is to Begin at Home”, the newsletter reports that between 1902 and 1922, taxes for the support of federal government increased by 750%, for state government by 400%, and for municipal governments by 500%. If we are to “escape the blighting consequences of excessive taxation in this country”, the Utah Taxpayer astutely concludes that we must first “reduce the cost of state and local governments”.