Utah County removes road tax from ballot

| 9/17/2004

Utah County commissioners did an about face this week and pulled a quarter-cent sales tax for transportation from the November ballot.

Commissioners voted last month to put the issue on the ballot, only to change their mind Tuesday, Sept. 14, after getting a commitment from several Utah state legislators to move at least $200 million more into transportation funding each year, The Daily Herald reported.

The tax would have generated about $12 million each year, and would have gone to a list of 27 road projects around the county.

The resolution that commissioners approved Tuesday calls for the question to be moved to the 2005 ballot, but they’ll have to vote again for it to appear on that ballot. In addition, the state Legislature would need to change the election law because it doesn’t allow counties to hold a special election for opinion questions. Next year is a municipal election year, so any countywide election would be a special election.

State lawmakers are planning bills to change the transportation project lists from being mostly political to being based on need, state Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, told the newspaper. Legislators also committed to try to move $200 million per year in vehicle-related sales tax from the general fund to transportation.

The decision to put the issue on the ballot served as a “wake-up call” to local state legislators about pressing transportation needs in Utah County and about the hemorrhage in the state transportation budget, Stephenson said.

“Basically you’ve given us an impetus to make something happen in the next session of the Legislature,” he said.

The next legislative session is scheduled to convene January 17.