Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Is Utah County Prop 1 Good or Bad for Highland?

On November 3rd the final votes will be cast on Utah County Proposition 1 which reads:

vote

"Shall Utah County, Utah, be allowed to impose a quarter-of-one-percent (0.25% or the equivalent of 1 cent for every $4 spent) sales use tax for the specific purpose of transportation improvements such as roads, trails, sidewalks, maintenance, bus and rail service, and traffic and pedestrian safety features, with the revenue divided among the county, cities and towns, and the public transit provider within the County."

Earlier in the year state law makers pass SB 362 which allowed counties to put a local option sales tax on the ballot. In Utah County’s case this is “Prop 1.” For counties, like Utah County, which have UTA services the split on the tax revenues will be 20% to Utah County, 40% to Cities, and 40% to UTA.

In Highland’s case Prop 1 would provide a much needed $165,000 to put into roads. However, it will add $6.4M to UTA’s budget. Personally, I am absolutely convinced that Highland could put additional road funding to good use. However with respect for the need to increase UTA’s funding, I believe that is less certain and will therefore be casting a NO vote on Proposition #1. I hope that state legislators will enact better legislation next year.

I am in favor of having a debate on UTA funding but I don’t think we should hold the county or cities hostage by tying needed road funds to an increase in UTA funding. State Representative Brian Greene’s comments accurately reflect my point of view:

“I can’t tell you how frustrated it makes me to see local officials ‘settle’ for bad policy because they think it is ‘too risky’ to fight for good policy. Any way you slice it, Prop 1 is bad policy. If it passes in November, it will be the 4th transportation sales tax increase in Utah County. Of the 3 now in place, UTA receives approximately 70% of the revenue and the cities receive 0% (from time to time they might receive a few $$ from the county’s share with MAG's approval, but none of the revenue is controlled by the cities). Currently, tax revenues subsidize UTA at the rate of 85% for bus routes and up to 95% for Front Runner. Last year, the Legislative Auditor produced a very critical audit of UTA’s operations identifying numerous problems and abundant inefficiencies—but, rather than requiring UTA to correct those deficiencies, the Legislature voted make another chunk of tax revenue available to them. Meanwhile, surface streets in just about every Utah County city are failing, and the needed revenue to repair and maintain our streets is being held ransom—if we want it we must allow an equal share to go to UTA. Despite the fact that Prop 1 revenue will not come close to addressing the years of deferred repairs/maintenance, many cities seem willing to pay the ransom. The citizens of Utah County deserve better leadership than that.”

You can register your view by casting a vote in the following Poll.

Do you support Utah County Proposition 1 which reads "Shall Utah County, Utah, be allowed to impose a quarter-of-one-percent (0.25% or the equivalent of 1 cent for every $4 spent) sales use tax for the specific purpose of transportation improvements such as roads, trails, sidewalks, maintenance, bus and rail service, and traffic and pedestrian safety features, with the revenue divided among the county, cities and towns, and the public transit provider within the County."
Yes
No
Poll Maker

Creating a tax for roads that is quote “fair” is challenging. Here are a few of the issues that I can see:

  • A fuel tax, even one that is based on a % of the price of fuel, will need regular adjustment as vehicles improve in efficiency. If miles per gallons improve by 20% over time then a fuel tax will generate fewer $ per miles driven.
  • If electric vehicles gain traction in the marketplace can a moral equivalence of a fuel tax be applied to them?
  • In truth we all get some benefit from our transportation infrastructure. Much of what we purchase: food, clothing … gets to the stores are directly to our homes over the road. Therefore a general sales tax to fund a portion of the transportation infrastructure costs is not unreasonable.

A wise man recently pointed out to me that a “no tax” attitude is not necessarily  conservative  Conservatives pay for what they use.

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5 comments:

  1. It's good to see 80% of your readers are against the tax; unfortunately it's going to pass anyway. Utahn's never see a tax they don't vote for.

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  2. And tell the wise man conservatives should have a "no new tax" attitude. We're already paying for many things we don't use.

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    1. We should be willing to pay for what we want. At a local level we get requests for parks, a community center, a new library building, to fix our roads ... . And at the same time no one wants to pay for them. Before the recent change in the gas tax the flat rate per gallon had not been changed for 18 years. This meant that every year the real value of that tax declined based on inflation. Additionally as cars became more efficient the tax did not collect the same amount per road mile driven. Yet when the legislator went to raise that tax many Uthans went apoplectic. Now I like the flat rate per gallon because 1) Any increase had to be agreed by the House and Senate. 2) The declining value of the revenue generated encouraged efficiency improvements. However, at some point the tax needs to be raised.
      The wise man's point is valid if you demand a certain level of performance from the govt you should be willing to pay for it.

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  3. On this one I am not so sure it will pass. There are Influencing people who are publically opposed including: Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, State Senator Margaret Dayton, State Rep Brian Greene, and former Utah Republican County Chair Casey Voeks.

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