Higher fuel tax sought to help pay for Utah roads

| 2/16/2007

A Utah House panel has approved a bill that would increase the state’s 24.5-cent fuel tax to 36.5 cents by 2019 to help pay for transportation in the state.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 7-3 to send a bill to the floor of the chamber that would increase the state’s per-gallon fuel tax by 2 cents every other year through 2019. The tax boosts would begin in 2009.

The tax is currently 24.5 cents per gallon and applies to diesel and gasoline.

Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, the bill’s sponsor, told the Deseret Morning News he knows the fuel tax increase is not anyone’s favorite idea but it’s one way to help pay for needed roadwork in the state.

Another provision in the bill would dedicate as much as $30 million to buy land for the proposed Mountain View Corridor. The corridor is a proposed highway that would stretch 35 miles from Interstate 80 in Salt Lake County to the Pleasant Grove Interchange in Utah County.

The revenue to make the purchase would come from a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees that Salt Lake County voters approved a year ago. Money also would come from a sales tax increase approved several years ago to pay for highway projects.

Harper said he wants to generate more revenue to help construct the Mountain View Corridor so that it doesn’t become a toll road. Making the roadway a pay-to-play route is among the options being considered by the Utah Department of Transportation to help cover the cost of construction.

The bill – HB158 – has been forwarded to the full House for consideration.

Another bill would allot $1.5 million to UDOT to study east-west transportation in Salt Lake County. Sponsored by Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, the bill is intended to help the agency identify different improvements to traffic routes, as well as possible construction of a new freeway, the Morning News reported.

The bill – HB108 –would earmark another $50,000 for UDOT to study and identify other transportation needs throughout the state.

Bigelow’s bill is awaiting consideration on the floor of the Senate. House lawmakers already approved it by unanimous consent.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor