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Prop 1: A needed fix or a subsidy for UTA?

First Published      Last Updated Nov 08 2016 05:22 pm


Supporters stress how it would help long-neglected local roads, but critics say the transportation agency ‘‘has not been a good steward of our tax dollars.”

Supporters and critics of Proposition 1 disagree about its true aim: whether it is mostly to fix long-neglected local roads or to provide bigger subsidies to the sometimes-controversial Utah Transit Authority.

It would do both on the Wasatch Front, and different sides argue whether that is worth the cost of the higher taxes it would impose.

Many voters already have received mail-in ballots to decide the issue in the Nov. 3 election.

So here is a look at what the proposition would do, its costs and some of the arguments for and against it.

What is Prop 1? • It would raise sales taxes by a penny for every $4 in purchases. Legislative analysts figure it would cost about $50 per person a year. The Legislature this year allowed each county to decide whether to put the measure on the ballot.




Seventeen of Utah's 29 counties did so this year, including all large Wasatch Front counties. Voters decide whether it will pass within their county's borders. So, for example, it is possible for Salt Lake County to pass it, but for Utah County to defeat it.

That could lead to some further tax disparity, which some legislators have publicly worried could lead people to shop in lower-tax counties for major purchases such as cars. Counties that pass Prop 1 would boost the sales tax on a $30,000 car by $75.

Where would money go? • On the Wasatch Front, 40 percent of the money, by law, would go to the UTA. Another 40 percent would go to cities and unincorporated-area service districts for local roads, trails, bike paths, sidewalks and similar projects. Twenty percent would go to counties for transportation projects of regional significance.

In counties without a transit agency such as the UTA, 40 percent would go to cities and 60 percent to counties. Of note, Cache, Summit and Washington counties — which have their own transit agencies — all chose not to put Prop 1 on the ballot this year, while all counties served by UTA will vote on it.

Local road plans • Mayors, county leaders and business groups that favor Prop 1 stress that it would help improve local roads.

For example, Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan says the city-county share of state gasoline taxes once paid for all local road needs. But that tax had not been raised in 18 years (although a new 5-cents-a-gallon increase will take effect Jan. 1).

The buying power of the gasoline tax decreased by 40 percent because of inflation since that tax was last raised, says Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.

Many cities during the period have either deferred needed road maintenance or raided general funds to fix roads — hurting other services such as police, fire and recreation, says Dolan. With the Wasatch Front population expected to double in the next 30 years, added the Sandy mayor, cities need the tax hike to start catching up on road needs.

"Even with all this [Prop 1 and the gasoline tax], funding still will not be adequate to meet our long-term needs," says Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. "But it's going to be a big help."

"As a Republican, I really loathe tax increases," Cullimore says. But Prop 1 "will actually save money in the long run because if we can properly maintain and service our roads now, not only does it service the economy better but it avoids the long-term impacts of deteriorating roads, which become much more expensive" to fix — he says six times as much.

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AT A GLANCE

Prop 1 on the ballot

The 17 counties putting Proposition 1 on their ballots are:

» Beaver

» Box Elder

» Carbon

» Davis

» Duchesne

» Grand

» Juab

» Morgan

» Rich

» Salt Lake

» San Juan

» Sanpete

» Sevier

» Tooele

» Utah

» Uintah

» Weber

Source: Utahns for Responsible Transportation Investments.


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