Tom Warne Report, 2 April 2013
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah lawmakers will need to look at options for funding anticipated transportation costs through 2040, possibly by adding a sales tax on gasoline, hiking the gas tax or raising user fees for transportation, according to a report released Tuesday by a Utah Foundation.
Based on figures from the state’s Unified Transportation Plan, the study estimated that over the next 30 years, Utah transportation projects will cost $54 billion. Current revenue levels will need to increase by $11 billion to fund the state’s transportation needs over that period of time, the report states.
“We have one of the fastest growing states in the country and a major portion of Utahns are packed into a confined area along the Wasatch Front, with mountains on one side and lakes on the other,” said Andrew Gruber, director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council.
The report reviews the pros and cons of several potential funding options lawmakers might use to update revenue models, boost funding and keep up with the state as the third fastest growing population in the nation.
“It’s such a long-term window that it’s not surprising that the ($11 billion) shortfall is so big,” said Stephen Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation, an independent public policy research firm. “What’s surprising is how long it’s been since the state moved on transportation revenue policy.” He noted that of all of the policies studied for the report, implementing the standard state sales tax to gasoline purchases would make the most significant impact. The tax could raise an estimated $10 billion to $20 billion, but it would also affect low- and middle-income families most substantially. It would also be contingent upon the price of gas.