"My father was a building contractor, and when he was building homes, he always made certain the foundation was strong, the walls were sturdy, and the roof never leaked. We are tasked by the citizens, the people who hired us to do the job, to make certain the 'house' we call Utah is solid and strong."
-- Gov. Gary Herbert
With promises to find solutions that don't burden Utah taxpayers, the general session of the 60th Utah Legislature has now convened and debates are sure to focus on municipal taxing issues.
For starters, a primary concern of local government is the menacing increase of gasoline taxes to fund transportation needs. The current tax of 24.5 cents per gallon tax has not been raised since the 1990s.
Receiving additional money for operation and maintenance, and not necessarily for new construction, is viewed as crucial by civic leadership. Cities are concerned that the current 70/30 B and C fund (road classification within a community) formula be applied to any new revenue.
In addition to a gas tax increase, options being discussed are a proposal to index the tax with the intent of maintaining revenue integrity and the consideration that, if a tax increase is not implemented statewide, authorization be given for a gas tax on a county basis.
The sales tax on food is another hot button of municipal government that will be pushed during this session. The Utah League of Cities and Towns opposed the elimination of the sales tax on food, which was removed from the so-called "boutique" taxes but left in place for the basic 1 percent local option (Utah Code 59-12-203). There is discussion about reinstating the tax on food for these levies, which would restore some stability to the sales tax base.
The Municipal Telecommunication Tax (Utah Code 10-1-401 et seq.) is the subject of an ongoing discussion about changes as to how it applies to telecommunication companies. This tax is limited to 3.5 percent of what is defined by law to be "telecommunication services" (Utah Code 10-1-404). On the whole, the ULCT is happy with this tax but has concerns about possible changes that are motivated by friction between cable providers and satellite services.
There are inevitably proposals to alter the property tax system. However, as of this writing, there are no major property tax pitches. We can only hold our breath.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at email@example.com.