This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Slumping gas prices are taking a toll on Utah's tax coffers, leaving lawmakers with about $10 million less to spend in the coming year than was projected just a few months ago.
Overall, the $10 million shortfall is barely decimal dust in the state's $14 billion-plus budget, but in a year where there were already substantial demands and competition for the money available, the decline could matter.
"When we do a big budget like we do, these things are really kind of good estimate guesses, but our concern really has been the downturn in the economy out in the [Uinta] Basin," said Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan. "I am really thankful we're fairly close."
Oil prices have been below $50 per barrel since last summer and recently dipped below $30. The plummeting prices have wreaked havoc on many economies in eastern and central Utah and are impacting state sales and severance tax collections.
The General Fund, which is fed by those tax sources, is actually coming in $53 million below the December projections. The Education Fund, which consists of income tax collections and is constitutionally earmarked for public and higher education, is growing faster than projected and will have an extra $43 million.
That means education programs are in good shape, with $575 million available for lawmakers to spend on schools and universities, but scraping for money to pay for all of the other areas of government.
The dismal sales tax figures may also create additional momentum for legislation that would push for retailers to collect and remit the sales tax for online purchases. Currently, taxpayers are supposed to include the tax on their annual filings, but few do and it is costing the state an estimated $180 million a year in lost revenue.