Proposal would allow cities and counties to boost sales taxes for road projects

Road ConstructionWhen Utah County residents roundly voted down the Utah Transit Authority quarter-cent sales tax hike several years ago, local cities were in a bind.

They were counting on the 0.10 percent of the quarter-cent they would have gotten – upwards of $2 million a year, for example, for Orem City – to improve their local roads, traffic signals, crosswalks and such.

Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, on Wednesday introduced HB367, which would allow local cities and counties, with a vote of their people, to raise their local option sales tax by that same 0.10 percent – and give new life to much-needed B and C road spending.

“My cities were banking on that money,” says Daw, who adds he’s running his local option sales tax hike on behalf of local mayors and councilmen.

His bill is not connected to the also-controversial Bus Rapid Transit program, BRT, which is going ahead in his area over the complaints of some citizens.

Except that UTA “has an image problem” in Utah County – and that is one reason the quarter-cent transit tax failed there.

HB367 says that, if adopted locally, the money must be used for local roads et al., and the 0.10 percent would be repealed if at a later date the whole quarter-cent UTA option sales tax is adopted countywide.

“The locals are just getting what they would have gotten – had banked on – if the quarter-cent had passed,” said Daw.

If the quarter-cent had passed, the money would have been split 40 percent to the UTA, 40 percent to the cities, and 20 percent to the counties.

With his bill, local voters who may not have wanted the UTA tax could still vote to increase their local sales tax by a bit to help their own local roads, sidewalks and such.

The bill does say the 0.10 percent hike could be used for transit projects.

But Daw said much of Utah County is still basically rural and not really ready yet for mass transit – but those areas certainly have B and C road projects that need to be funded.