The Utahns do not want to increase gas taxes, toll roads, polls


SALT LAKE CITY – Utahns do not want to see government gas taxes increased by 30 cents per gallon or major state highways become toll roads, according to a new survey, although tax revenues collected at the pump continue to fall very short of what is needed to pay for the streets.

"I'm not surprised. If I were asked the question, I would say:" No, I don't want to pay for it. "But when I understand what the problems are, I say:" I don't like it, but it's the right thing to "," said Wayne Niederhauser , former president of the State Senate who sponsored the 2018 law paving the way for toll roads.

The the survey found that 49% of Utah voters oppose an increase in gas taxes, while only 36% claim an increase to maintain funding for road construction and maintenance. Toll roads are even less popular, with 68% opposed and only 23% in favor.

The survey was conducted by Y2 Analytics for online political news sources from 31 July to 6 August among 1,017 registered Utah voters participating in the Utah political trends panel. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Niederhauser, a long-time supporter of stopping the annual passage of about $ 644 million in sales tax on transport costs through a legislative mark, said it is at the center of the imbalance in state revenues that the legislator is currently trying to correct. .

But making road users collect more than $ 1.7 billion for transport needs was not a topic of great importance to the members of the Tax Restructuring Task Force and the equalization of the legislator, who should continue to meet until at least October before finalizing the recommendations.

Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, co-chair of the task force Senate, is not sure what the role of the gas tax will be in correcting the imbalance between the state's main sources of revenue as tax revenue growth on sales covering the need for general funds continues to lag behind the increase in income taxes used for education.

Hillyard said the gas taxes will "probably" be discussed by the task force at some point, but noted that future agendas have not yet been established. He also said that the gas tax did not increase much during eight city hall meetings held by the task force around the state during the summer, except when Utahns asked for it to be cut.

"I don't blame them. Besides, I don't want to pay any tax on real estate or income," Hillyard said. "Everything is on the table until we decide after the study which options can pass. People need to understand the alternatives. We are two or three years before the crisis with deficiencies in the general fund. "

The alternatives that get the most attention from the fiscal force are the imposition of new sales tax on services, the restoration of the entire state food tax, while offering a tax credit to residents low-income and changing the Utah Constitution to allow you to spend income taxes on more than public and higher education.

Niederhauser has claimed to be adding sales taxes to services, which the legislators considered the last session but rejected in favor of setting up a task force among the protests of the business community, because it will stabilize the reduction of the tax base.

"But this is not the problem," he said. "If we really want to solve the problem, the problem is that transport must pay for itself."

Everything is on the table until we decide after the study which options can pass.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan

The voters had the opportunity in last year's elections to support a 10 cents increase in the gallon of gas tax to release sales tax revenues to be spent in schools. However, the non-binding electoral question that was part of a compromise with the Our Schools Now initiative to raise taxes for education failed.

That is why gas taxes do not receive enough attention in the tax reform process, said Niederhauser.

"If the legislator decides to consider the tax on petrol or something like that, then people will say:" We told you we didn't like it, "he said, because they didn't really understand how taxes on sales they are subsidizing the streets once they are paid entirely through gas taxes. "That kind of solved the gas tax issue."

LaVarr Webb, publisher of, said the vote could suck lawmakers on the increase in the gas tax, but that should not stop them. He said there were few political consequences when the gas tax was increased by 5 cents a gallon three years ago, the first increase since 1997.

Due to an indexing formula approved in this area, the Utah gas tax rose this year to 30 cents per gallon from 29.4 cents per gallon and should rise to 31.1 cents to the gallon in 2020.

"" I don't think politically that it's a big risk to increase the gas tax, "said Webb, as gas prices fluctuate frequently, making it more difficult to see an increase." For a good fiscal policy, it would be a good thing to do. Reducing other taxes would keep people whole. "

The legislative leaders have allocated $ 75 million for a tax cut as part of the tax reform effort, and there has been talk of reducing both the sales tax and the income tax rates to compensate for any expansion of the tax tax base through tax services such as Uber and Lyft.

House whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, a member of the task force and sponsor of the Niederhauser Toll Road Law Chamber, said roadside tariffs should be part of the discussion on tax reform, though not personally favors an increase in gas taxes because of the impact on Utah drivers.

Toll roads, Schultz said, could be configured to collect substantial revenue from out-of-state drivers crossing the state known as the "crossroads of the West", money that could be used to cut income or other tax rates that benefit mainly from Utahns.

"I think in the end we should look for ways to create less tax burdens for citizens than they currently have. I see. It's inconvenient when you cross a toll road and nobody likes them, "he said, pointing out that the toll is already allowed by the law passed in 2018.

He said the survey results would have been different if Utahns had been asked if they favored a lighter tax burden that moved some of the taxes on drivers out of state.

Niederhauser said that solving the problem of transport financing is "politically impossible at this point", given the size of revenue from sales taxes for roads. The problem could, however, be resolved incrementally over time with gas tax increases, registration fees and other changes, he said.

It remains to be seen whether this starts with tax reform, especially since 2020 is an election year for all members of the Utah House and about half of state senators. Niederhauser stated that the agreement on which services should be subject to sales taxes could reach up to that point for legislators.

"They are facing a rather large problem in sales tax on services," he said. "It could be all they can do in one bite."

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