2018 Bills

SB 136: The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Strikes Back

This bill passed the Senate 15-12 and the House with a vote of 54-14.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

Although UTA has been mired in scandal after scandal, and despite voters defeating local sales tax increases in many counties, legislation has been prepared to steamroll over those opposed to increasing funding for UTA.

Many in the Utah Legislature, via Senate Bill 136, seem to be obsessed with expanding UTA’s role in Utah’s transportation system, even while the quasi-governmental group carries roughly $2 billion in debt. Senator Wayne Harper and Representative Mike Schultz are sponsoring the bill which would do the following:

  • increase the state hotel tax from .32 to 5 percent;
  • increase the state rental car tax from 2.5 to 5 percent;
  • force all counties that have not increased their local option sales taxes to do so by 2022 (in other words, force Prop 1 on everyone);
  • increase registration fees for hybrids and electric vehicles;
  • open up road funding for use on public transit projects; and
  • change UTA governance from 16 part-time members to 3 full-time commissioners

While SB 136 does make a step towards improving UTA governance, it doesn’t give UTA time to continue to reform itself from within—with existing revenue—to try and prove that the organization is ready to take on more funding and more projects. Massive tax and fee increases are not the answer to the current boondoggle that is UTA.

Changes are expected to come for SB 136, but outside of toll roads, the Legislature is doing very little to replace the outdated gas tax that no longer serves as a true user fee. Instead, it is turning to public transit as the answer to Utah’s transportation needs. As the 48th largest metro area in the country, Utah is planning to build a public transit system that will go under utilized, all while imposing heavier taxes and fees on individuals who will likely never even use that system.