House rejects tax break for transit passes
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A proposal intended to clean up Utah's bad air by giving a tax break for the purchase of a bus or train pass during inversion months broke down Wednesday over concerns about further subsidizing mass transit for the Wasatch Front.

"It's one thing when you want to go ahead and take this on with your own people who are polluting this area. It's another thing to take that from everyone in the state," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. "I'm not against clean air. I'm just against paying for it for people who can do it themselves."

Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, who sponsored HB55, said Utah's bad air has scared off business relocations and turned the entire state into "active smokers." Her bill would have given a tax credit of up to $50 per person who purchases transit passes during the worst inversion months.

The pilot program would have expired in 2018 and cost about $450,000.

"I would like you to consider this alternative for people who are motivated to change their habits … that would be willing to try during the inversion season to get on the bus and get on the train," she said.

But Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, said taxpayers already subsidize most of the cost — as much as 80 percent — of the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX lines.

"I think we're already giving them a huge, huge financial benefit," said Christensen. "[We are] paying big time to their contribution to our overall air quality efforts."

Poulson's bill was voted down 29-45.

— Robert Gehrke