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Transportation Reform

The Deseret Morning News has an article on gas taxes. Not surprisingly, most Utahns are not supportive of increasing gas taxes.

The article mentioned the Utah Taxpayers Association's transportation reform proposal which includes

- Increasing gas taxes while cutting individual income taxes
- Congestion pricing
- Prioritizing rails and roads projects based on cost-effectiveness of reducing congestion
- Corridor preservation

Obviously, a newspaper article can't cover every issue in transportation reform so there was at least one point that was left out. The article didn't mention that the transportation lobby will be pushing for increasing sales taxes every five to ten years for the next couple of decades. People we've talked to on the Hill anticipate that sales tax rates will reach 7.5% or even higher by 2020. Currently (2Q 2007), sales tax rates are 6.85% in most of Salt Lake County and 6.5% in most of Utah County.

When evaluating transportation funding proposals, taxpayers need to be aware of the proposed sales tax increases that the transportation lobby is pushing.

Spending groups like to push for sales tax increases because they are the taxes most likely to be approved by voters. Sales taxes are not very visible, and taxpayers do not receive a statement showing how much sales taxes they pay in a given year . A typical Utah family pays more in sales taxes than in property taxes, but most taxpayers are completely unaware of that. Sales taxes are also very regressive.

The article provided an example of some of the head-in-the-sand thinking surrounding the transportation debate in Utah. A "disgusted" Richard Drake of Millcreek was quoted in the article as calling increasing gas taxes a "hare-brained idea" and suggested increased reliance on state sales taxes to fund transportation projects. Increased reliance on sales taxes for transportation is a bad idea. Unlike increased gas taxes or congestion pricing, sales taxes do not provide financial incentives for commuters to change driving habits.

Previous posts on transportation issue:
- Responding to the Tribune on gas tax increase
- USDOT supports congestion pricing
- Raise state gas tax, cut state income tax
- There has to be a better way to fund transportation
- $500 million tax increase -- or more -- for highways
- Responding to Bryan Gray as the Davis County Clipper
- TRAX to the airport?
- Are toll roads double taxation?
- Responding to the critics
- Congestion pricing in Sweden


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