SALT LAKE CITY – The second week of the Utah Legislature’s 45-day session has come to an end. Among the legislative matters that made the news this last week was the introduction of proposed legislation related to the state’s gas tax.
Though state transportation officials have said they have enough funding for current projects across the state, it is projected the state will be looking at an $11 billion funding shortfall in the long term. Amending the gas tax is seen as a way to alleviate that problem.
Utah’s gas tax is currently 24.5 cents per gallon and has been since 1997.
Senate Bill 160, sponsored by Sen. Kevin T. Van Tassell, R-Daggett, Duchesne, Summit, Uintah and Wasatch counties, would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon and would raise diesel fuel by 5 cents per gallon, according to a report published in the Salt Lake Lake Tribune. Monies raised by the additional tax would be applied to road and bridge maintenance.
Van Tassell’s bill has yet to go through committee.
Republican Sen. Evan Vickers, who represents Iron County and the eastern half of Washington County, said there is another proposal being worked on, as well, that has not yet been official introduced. He detailed the proposal in a report wrapping up the second week in the legislature:
There’s a new proposal concerning transportation revenue that is intriguing and has some merit. The proposal comes from Senator Al Jackson of Highland who is the Senate Transportation Committee Chairman. His proposal would do away with the “cents per gallon” gas tax, and convert it all to a “percentage” tax that would be applied at the refinery as it is now. There would be a (six) month review process in place that would prevent the tax from raising exorbitant amounts of revenue, but would allow for some increase over time. If, for example, the price of gas doubled, then the Legislature would be required to pass a decrease in the percentage tax in order to keep the revenue amount in line.
Healthcare and nondiscrimination
Other issues still pending in the Legislature are healthcare and nondiscrimination measures.
“We must decide what to do with Medicaid expansion,” Vickers said while reporting on the first week of the 2015 legislative session.
“We have over 100,000 people in the state of Utah without healthcare coverage,” he said. “There are multiple suggestions as to how we can narrow that gap, including Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah proposal. The Affordable Care Act … not only created some of this gap, but due to the new taxes in that law, there is close to $800 million leaving our state. The challenge will be to determine how much we can afford as our portion to leverage federal dollars to increase coverage.”
During the first week of the legislative session, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced broadened support for nondiscrimination laws, from the local to the federal level, to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in matters of housing and employment.
“Anti-discrimination and religious freedom legislation is sure to be very controversial and inherently tricky,” Vickers said. “It was interesting to see the LDS Church leadership come out … in support of anti-discrimination legislation. Time will tell how much influence that will have on the decision process.”
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, has been attempting to get a nondiscrimination bill passed in the state for the last three years that is focused on protecting LGBT housing and employment rights. With the issue of same-sex marriage and the court fight over Amendment 3 out of the way, Urquhart said, he believes the legislation will pass during the 2015 legislative session.
Along with Urquhart’s proposed legislation, Sen. James Dabakis, R-Salt Lake County, also introduced Senate Bill 99, which deals with LGBT nondiscrimination and public accommodations.
- Anti-Count My Vote compromise legislation advances out of committee
- LDS Church expresses support for LGBT nondiscrimination measures
- Lawmakers revisit distracted driving laws, consider changes
- State of the State: Herbert advocates Healthy Utah plan, education funding
- Health Reform Task Force votes against governor’s Healthy Utah Plan
- Civic leaders support campaign for additional transportation funding
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