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Just before its midnight adjournment, the Legislature passed a compromise plan Thursday to raise and reform gasoline taxes for the first time in 18 years — merging what had been competing proposals by the House and Senate.

The deal includes raising the gas tax by about 5 cents a gallon on Jan. 1, 2016. The Senate earlier sought a 10 cent increase, while the House initially wanted no hike.

The compromise adopts a House proposal to convert the current cents-per-gallon gas tax into a system similar to a sales tax. That allows the tax collected at the pump to increase automatically when gas prices rise.

The deal would impose a 12 percent tax on the wholesale price of gasoline, adjusted once a year.

However, Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, said the bill is written so that automatic raises are designed not to kick in until the wholesale price of gasoline reaches $2.45 a gallon, which is not projected to happen for six to 10 years.

The deal has a cap to ensure the gas tax does not rise above 40 cents a gallon over time.

The Senate also gave in to what had been a sticking point with the House — allowing counties to ask voters to approve a quarter-cent per dollar sales tax increase to give cities, counties and transit districts more money for local projects.

In urban areas, cities and the Utah Transit Authority would each receive a tenth-cent of the sales tax increase, and counties would receive .05 of a cent.

The Senate also removed proposed increases in car registration fees that the House opposed.

The Senate approved the compromise 20-8, and the House approved it 44-29.

Gov. Gary Herbert has supported the approach taken by the compromise, indicating he would likely sign it if it passes.

"Having a five cent increase in gasoline tax so we can have some instant infusion of money into our needs for roads is a good thing," he said this week. "Having a sales tax that will grow as we have an expansion in the economy to address our growth pressures is also a good thing."

Lawmakers also killed this week a proposal to raise vehicle registration fees to raise money for roads. It initially proposed to hike the yearly registration fee at least $10 for any car, but fees for some alternative-fuel cars would have skyrocketed by as much as $70 annually.

In other transportation topics, the Legislature passed a bill to toughen seat belt enforcement.

HB79 makes failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, meaning officers could stop and cite people directly for the lapse. Currently, Utah has a "secondary" law for those 18 and older. A $45 ticket can be issued only when an officer stops a vehicle for another reason.

It also passed a bill to allow people to travel through railroad crossings as soon as guard gates rise, instead of waiting for all flashing lights to stop — a practice that the Utah Transit Authority has warned could be deadly.

But dying late Thursday was HB67, which would have allowed one-touch use of hand-held cellphones while driving, but would ban holding a phone up to the ear of the driver.