SALT LAKE CITY - It won't take any lip reading to understand a simple new message expected to accompany the 2014 legislative session: no new taxes.
There may be a lot of talk about different options, but don't expect any new taxes to emerge from the Utah Legislature this year, a number of leaders predict.
Proposals to raise the gas tax, a potential new tax on beer, a severance-like tax on sand and gravel extraction, and a slew of tax credits are expected to be reviewed during the 45-day session, but leaders in both the House and Senate think at the end of the day there won't be any increase in taxes.
Senate leaders all downplayed the possibility of any new tax initiatives during a press briefing Monday. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser described the probability of any new taxes as very low. He did not diminish the need to talk about the proposals, however, especially several gas tax options linked to funding for transportation.
"This is a can we can't kick down the road. We need to address it and address it effectively," he said of a projected deficit of $11 billion from 2014 to 2040 in funding for maintenance and repair of state roads and bridges.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, also said there is little chance for a tax increase and said lawmakers never budget with a tax increase in mind.
"If we have to fund a program, we'll have to find it internally. It will not be driven because we need more money for the budget," Hillyard said.
That sentiment is also being echoed in the other legislative body.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, made it clear in her opening-day speech that she does not favor most of the gas tax proposals being discussed. She urged leaders to explore new ideas.
"We must also take an honest look at transportation development. It needs a fresh approach and new ideas. The gas tax is neither fresh, nor new, nor right. I'm not persuaded that a blanket gas tax is a long-term answer to our long term needs," Lockhart said.
Other leaders have suggested the fact is an election year makes any potential tax increase unlikely.