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Competing gas tax changes surface at the Capitol

Published February 4, 2014 8:29 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah lawmakers are considering competing proposals to change Utah's gasoline tax — both of which could result in an increase in the amount taxpayers pay in gas taxes in future years.

The proposals —¬†one sponsored by Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, the other by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem —¬†would restructure the way gas taxes are assessed.

"They're both good bills," said Valentine.

Anderson's plan, presented to the House GOP Caucus Tuesday, would decrease what Utahns pay at the pump, cutting the current 24.5-cent-per-gallon tax in half. That would be offset, however, by an across-the-board increase of 0.2 percent in the sales tax on every other purchase Utahns make including, potentially, food.

And the 12.25-cent-per-gallon tax would then be tied to changes in the cost of maintaining roads, which means after the first year, the per-gallon tax could increase by as much as 2 percent a year.

"This is a way to adjust the gas tax based on our maintenance needs," Anderson said. Based on historic trends, he said, the average household would end up paying an extra $1.17 at the pump, bringing in about $3 million more a year.

Valentine's proposal, meantime, takes a similar approach, but keeps the focus exclusively on the fuels tax, rather than imposing a broader sales tax.

"We have a philosophical dispute on that point," Valentine said. "I'd prefer to see more of the users of the roads pay the burden."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the reason for raising the sales tax more broadly is because "everyone in society benefits from good transportation, even if you sit at home and never drive," so it's fair for them to pay for the roads.

Both proposals aim at not increasing the amount of gas tax revenue collected in the first year, then to let the amount grow over time to create a more stable stream of money to build and maintain roads.

For years, better fuel economy and alternate-fuel vehicles have led to a decline in the gas tax money collected and left lawmakers grappling with how to pay to build and maintain roads.






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