Added road dollars sought in Utah

| 1/19/2007

The state of Utah needs to do something to pump life into the state's struggling transportation system, according to a pair of state lawmakers.

Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is expected to introduce a bill that would trim the state's per-gallon fuel tax by 9 cents. In return, he wants to impose a 6.5 percent sales tax on all fuel purchases, the Deseret Morning News reported.

Implementing a sales tax on fuel would result in higher prices at the pump where consumers now have 24.5 cents tacked on to each gallon purchased. If Harper's idea is approved, the per-gallon tax rate would drop to 15.5 cents, but consumers would pay a 6.5 percent sales tax on their total fuel bill at the pump.

Supporters contend the fuel tax is not an adequate funding source because it is losing value with inflation and as more motorists shift toward more fuel efficient vehicles.

Applying a sales tax to purchases of fuel would provide the state with a more consistent source of revenue for roads, Harper told the Morning News. The fuel tax doesn't increase with inflation. As a result, it doesn't provide enough revenue to sustain growth, he said.

Opponents counter that fuel prices are very volatile. They would prefer a tax system that relies on stable revenue sources.

Another funding aid being pursued would allow the state to funnel money from vehicle-related sales to transportation. The state now sends most of the money from those sales to the general fund, which helps pay for education and health programs.

Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, is expected to introduce the proposal to reroute the money.

The Utah Legislature opened Jan. 15. The session runs through the end of February.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor