Salt Lake City Residents Oppose Taxing Non-Residents

Well, you can’t say Salt Lake City residents aren’t welcoming.

A new UtahPolicy poll finds that city residents don’t want to tax commuters who work in the city, but don’t live there.

And they don’t want to raise the city’s sales tax – which would capture revenues of those who buy things in the city, but don’t necessarily live there.

The findings are two political blows to City Mayor Ralph Becker, who has advocated in the past that Utah’s capitol city needs to find some way to gain revenue from commuters and visitors who use city services – like police and paramedics — but don’t necessarily pay for them.

The results could also be used by challengers Jackie Biskupski and Luke Garrott, who are trying to unseat Becker in his re-election to a third term this year.

Both Biskupski and Garrott are critical of a last-minute change to a state prison bill passed in the 2015 Legislature which gives additional sale tax authority to any city accepting the new prison.

Becker says he was not part of that change; while Biskupski and Garrott says it smells of a political “deal” with GOP legislators – as a legislative prison relocation commission is looking at a new prison site west of the Salt Lake City International Airport.

All three candidates oppose relocating the Draper prison to the city.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that only 30 percent of city residents want to find some way to tax commuters who work in Salt Lake but don’t live there.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose that idea, Jones found, and 6 percent didn’t know.


Jones also asked city residents if they favor or oppose a higher local option sales tax rate, which, again, could collect some more tax from folks who purchase items in city stores.

Sixty-seven percent oppose such a tax hike, 30 percent favor it, and 4 percent didn’t know.

Jones polled 366 registered city voters April 9-15; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.12 percent.

The Salt Lake mayor’s race is official nonpartisan. That means candidates’ political party affiliation if any, is not listed on the ballot.

But city voters have not elected a Republican to the post since the early 1970s – all subsequent mayors Democrats of one ilk or another.

Becker, Biskupski, and Garrott are all Democrats. No Republican has yet declared candidacy, the filing deadline in June.

While the race is nonpartisan, candidates historically have let their party affiliation be known to attract primary and general election votes.

Jones found that city Republicans oppose taxing commuters: Only 20 favor that idea, 72 percent oppose and 8 percent didn’t know.

Democrats are more amiable: 52 percent oppose, 40 percent favor and 8 percent don’t know.

Political independents oppose such a commuter tax, 75-23 percent with 2 percent don’t know.

On the question of whether to raise the local option sales tax (as the prison bill would allow if Salt Lake were chosen for the new prison):

— Republicans oppose such a higher tax, 75-21 percent, 3 percent don’t know.

— Democrats oppose: 55-41 percent, 4 percent don’t know.

— Political independents oppose, 73-23 percent with 5 percent don’t know.

It is unclear if the Legislature will make a final prison site decision before the November 2015 election – lawmakers are out of session, and it would take a special session called by the governor.

If Salt Lake is picked as the new prison site, it clearly will take some selling by the new mayor if he/she decides to go for the new, higher, local option sales tax, the UtahPolicy poll shows.