Transportation and Mass Transit Sales Tax Referendum: Proposition 1 Pros and Cons

In November, voters in 17 of Utah’s 29 counties will be asked if their county should increase its sales tax rate by 0.25% in order to pay for transportation and mass transit-related projects within their boundaries. The increase is on the ballot in the 17 counties due to the county commission or council in that county voting to place the tax increase question on the ballot.

If the increase is passed, 40% of the additional revenue from the tax increase will go to each of the cities within the county that raises the tax. Another 40% of the increase will go to the mass transit district operating within the county (e.g. Utah Transit Authority), while the final 20% of the increase will be distributed to the county. For counties without a mass transit organization, the revenue will be split with 60% being received by the counties and 40% going to the cities.

The Utah Taxpayers Association has evaluated the proposed local option sales tax and provides the following information for consideration:

PROS

  • Transportation funding is essential to keeping Utah’s economy moving. With our state’s expected population growth, cities, counties and the state need to make certain Utah has quality transportation infrastructure that supports population and economic growth.
  • This isn’t just about building roads and filling potholes, it provides transportation choices. The local option sales tax also allows cities and counties to build bicycle lanes, walking trails and to fund public
  • Along the Wasatch Front, the Utah Transit Authority has pledged that any additional funds from this increase will go towards extending the system’s bus services. If passed, money will pay for buses to run more often, have earlier start times and additional late night service.
  • The local option sales tax proposed will address a shortfall in many county and cities’ transportation budgets.
  • Cities and counties may work together to identify priorities in their transportation infrastructure to better address joint needs, using the additional revenue.

CONS

  • Utahns are already overtaxed. The Legislature raised taxes $151 million earlier this year to fund transportation and education. If Proposition 1 is passed in the counties who have placed it on the ballot, it would raise taxes another $97 million. The increase would equal out to be a $38 per year increase on the residents in those counties.
  • Transportation needs are best funded by the users of the services. Sales taxes do not have a close correlation to those who use the roads. User fees, such as a gas tax or vehicle miles traveled program, can create a more equitable solution.
  • Additional transportation funding should be uniform statewide, rather than a select few counties.
  • Sales taxes are regressive, falling hardest on those least able to pay.
  • Increasing the sales tax rate will hurt Utah’s local retailers who compete with out-of-state online retailers that do not collect sales taxes.
  • Placing a tax increase county by county creates a patchwork of tax rates and a patchwork of funding for transportation, leading to confusion and citizens traveling to other counties with lower rates to make major purchases.

The chart below displays the amount of money that would be raised by each of the counties on this year’s ballot, if voters approve the tax increase.

Sales Tax Increase on the Ballot
County Tax Increase Amount
Beaver $259,834
Box Elder $1,360,334
Carbon $908,708
Davis $10,333,326
Duchesne $1,845,043
Grand $776,562
Juab $248,958
Millard $408,339
Morgan $236,632
Salt Lake $48,959,843
San Juan $474,651
Sanpete $594,073
Sevier $785,173
Tooele $1,552,601
Uintah $2,990,308
Utah $17,119,677
Weber $8,219,309
Total $97,073,371

The following chart shows the number of miles that are maintained by counties and cities in each individual county, as well as the percentages of funding each entity would receive if voters approve the local option sales tax. The counties shaded in blue are those that have placed the tax increase on the ballot this November.

                                            Local Option Sales Tax: County vs. City Weighted Roads
                                                 with Distribution of Revenue under Proposition 1
County City Roads County Roads Total Road Miles Percent of County Roads Percent of City Roads Percent to Counties Percent to Cities Percent to Transit Districts
Beaver 314 1679 1993 84.00% 16.00% 60% 40%
Box Elder 1410 3241 4651 70.00% 30.00% 20% 40% 40%
Cache 2711 1669 4380 38.00% 62.00% 20% 40% 40%
Carbon 495 1720 2215 78.00% 22.00% 60% 40%
Daggett 20 655 675 97.00% 3.00% 60% 40%
Davis 5698 147 5845 3.00% 97.00% 20% 40% 40%
Duchesne 363 3630 3993 91.00% 9.00% 60% 40%
Emery 501 2308 2809 82.00% 18.00% 60% 40%
Garfield 364 1401 1765 79.00% 21.00% 60% 40%
Grand 172 2458 2630 93.00% 7.00% 60% 40%
Iron 1300 2344 3644 64.00% 36.00% 20% 40% 40%
Juab 423 2974 3397 88.00% 12.00% 60% 40%
Kane 337 1117 1454 77.00% 23.00% 60% 40%
Millard 602 3999 4601 87.00% 13.00% 60% 40%
Morgan 113 418 531 79.00% 21.00% 60% 40%
Piute 202 616 818 75.00% 25.00% 60% 40%
Rich 114 670 784 85.00% 15.00% 60% 40%
Salt Lake 14621 2428 17049 14.00% 86.00% 20% 40% 40%
San Juan 201 4918 5119 96.00% 4.00% 60% 40%
Sanpete 944 1392 2336 60.00% 40.00% 60% 40%
Sevier 823 1862 2685 69.00% 31.00% 60% 40%
Summit 520 1465 1985 74.00% 26.00% 20% 40% 40%
Tooele 1928 3394 5322 64.00% 36.00% 20% 40% 40%
Uintah 407 4587 4994 92.00% 8.00% 60% 40%
Utah 10087 2044 12131 17.00% 83.00% 20% 40% 40%
Wasatch 621 1036 1657 63.00% 37.00% 60% 40%
Washington 3998 1595 5593 29.00% 71.00% 20% 40% 40%
Wayne 145 1137 1282 89.00% 11.00% 60% 40%
Weber 4418 988 5406 18.00% 82.00% 20% 40% 40%
Shaded lines are those considering local option sales tax on the 2015 ballot


2 Responses to “Transportation and Mass Transit Sales Tax Referendum: Proposition 1 Pros and Cons”

  1. George says:

    I have an idea lets build another Seep Ridge Road super Hwy to no where, we all have to live within our budgets and so should our local governments. Make the cuts the rest of us have had to do. Don’t take more money from the people.

  2. Toli says:

    Why doesn’t the expected population growth cover the costs? I’d assume, more people means more tax revenues collected… I don’t use the UTA, so why should I have to help pay for it or subsidize costs for others? Raise the usage rates to cover costs! Hey, there’s an idea… Or maybe not provide services to illegal immigrants, giving them money, when they don’t pay any taxes… Wouldn’t that allow money to be allocated to mass transit? Sounds a lot like that silly rail system that’s being built in CA…

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