Nearly two-thirds of Utah voters want the 2015 Legislature to raise the state gasoline tax, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.
However, voters are split over what is the best way to do that – something thinking the current per-gallon tax should be increased, some thinking that tax should be junked and a straight percentage sales tax should be imposed and some suggesting other ways to raise taxes for state roads, bridges and maintenance.
Well, guess what?
Looks like there will be a compromise between Republicans in the House and Senate and BOTH types of gasoline taxes will be imposed, says Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, the House GOP sponsor of a straight sales tax for roads bill.
The House passed Anderson’s bill Monday night HB362 in a 51-22 vote.
Earlier Monday the Senate passed Sen. Kevin Van Tassell’s SB160 in a 20-5 vote.
Van Tassell’s bill started out as a straight 10 cents per gallon tax hike, going from 24.5 cents per gallon to 34.5 cents per gallon.
In his new poll, Dan Jones & Associates asked the 10-cent per-gallon question. Just recently, Van Tassell decided to change his bill to a 5-cents-per-gallon tax hike, with a multi-year phase-in to 9 cents per gallon.
And that is the form the Senate passed it to the House.
Anderson’s bill has also undergone several changes, and as passed Monday night it is a 10 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline average measured from the year before.
Wait, there’s more.
It now appears Van Tassell’s nickel-a-gallon tax will be blended into Anderson’s sales tax for a hybrid – a small per-gallon increase PLUS a sales tax at the pump, which will increase over time.
Aren’t you glad you don’t have to figure this stuff out?
Anyway, here’s what Jones found in a survey conducted March 2-5 of 406 registered voters; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.86 percent.
Here are the findings:
Among all Utahns – 33 percent don’t want any kind of gasoline tax increase; 28 percent want a 10 cents per-gallon tax hike; 19 percent want a straight sales tax placed on fuel purchases at the pump; 8 percent wanted some other kind of fuel tax hike; 4 percent mentioned some other kind of process in dealing with a gasoline tax; and 8 percent didn’t know.
Break out the poll results by political partisanship and one finds Republicans, Democrats and political independents all want their fuel taxes increased in some manner.
Add up the possible gasoline tax hike options and you get 59 percent of registered voters agreeing that gasoline taxes need to go up.
The current gas tax has not been increased since 1997. And due to inflation of roadwork, that 24.5-cent per gallon tax is only worth 14.5 cents in buying power today.
Van Tassell’s original 10 cent per gallon tax hike would only have caught up with inflation, and would do nothing to keep up with upcoming road needs/inflation.
Anderson’s straight sales tax of 10 percent wouldn’t kick in for several years – as the Utah Tax Commission measures’ the average gas prices over several years.
While Anderson’s bill would deal with some inflation, it has a ceiling equal to 40 cents per gallon tax. The ceiling could be hit in four or five years, or maybe not for 10, Anderson told his GOP House caucus on Monday.
In any case, it is clear most Utahns see the need for higher taxes for roads – as many business/good government groups are calling for fuel tax adjustments.
Last year a huge transportation study found that by $11.3 billion road funding shortfall by 2040.
Anderson pointed out that his bill – and certainly Van Tassell’s bill – WILL NOT raise $11.3 billion more over the next 30 years.
“There is still much work to be done” in future Legislatures to find some way to raise the big bucks that will be needed to build new Utah roads, and maintain them.
Anderson’s bill also contains a voter-approved 0.25-cent local option sales tax for local roads and bus/rail systems.
If voters approve that sales tax hike the money will be split between cities in the county, the county itself, and any mass transit districts in the county.