Voters in 10 Utah Counties Elect to Pass Proposition 1

Wed November 25, 2015 - West Edition
Lori Tobias

In the counties that approved it, Proposition 1 raises the sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent, or one cent for every four dollars.
In the counties that approved it, Proposition 1 raises the sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent, or one cent for every four dollars.

Ten counties in Utah passed a measure on Election Day raising sales taxes by a quarter of a percent to pay for road projects. But the state’s two most populous counties, Salt Lake and Utah, defeated the rate hike.

The vote was so close in Salt Lake County, election officials did not finish tallying votes until two weeks after the election. In the end, the defeat by only 1.8 percent held, said Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen.

In the counties that approved it, Proposition 1 raises the sales tax from 6.75 percent to 7 percent, or one cent for every four dollars for the “specific purpose of transportation improvements such as roads, trails, sidewalks, maintenance, bus and rail service, and traffic and pedestrian safety features, with the revenues divided among the county, cities and towns and the public transit provider within the county,” according to the Utah Voter Information Pamphlet.

Sixty percent of the money raised would go to projects designated by the local government, while 40 percent would be directed to the Utah Transit Authority (a local service district) if it provides service in that county. If not, 100 percent would go to the local projects, said Remi Barron, spokesman of UTA.

The measure was put on local ballots after the Utah State Legislature passed a bill earlier this year allowing each county to hold public meetings and decide individually if voters should decide the sales tax increase. Of Utah’s 29 counties, 17 opted to put it to a vote.

“The support shown for Prop 1 will pay dividends in the future, not only for the economy of our state, but also for the Utahns who depend on reliable, well-maintained infrastructure,” the Utah Transportation Authority said in a press release posted on its Web site.

“For counties that voted in favor, Prop 1 will reach close to home with the transportation options we use and rely on the most. It will address that perpetual pothole on your local street, finish the sidewalk between your house and your children’s school, or add to transit, trails and bike paths so you have more transportation choices.”

Proposition 1 is the first-ever proposal to provide funding for all kinds of transportation — not only roads, but also sidewalks, bike paths, trails, and other options, the Web site post noted.

“Even with such positive outcomes we know our work is not done. The future of Utah’s transportation system is not a sprint, but instead a marathon. We will continue to focus on the priority of an efficient well-rounded transportation system.

“The Utah Transportation Coalition will continue to advocate for transportation alongside the hundreds of businesses, city councils and mayors, chambers of commerce and other partners throughout Utah who share our vision towards long term sustainable transportation investment, keeping Utah one of the best places to live, to work and to recreate.”

Proponents for the measure argued that the cost to the average person of about $20 to $24 a year was far less than the cost of bad roads, which lead to higher fuel expenses, tire wear and additional vehicle maintenance — or about $600 a year for the average person.

One of the arguments against the Proposition came from opponents who were displeased with the amount of funds directed to the UTA.

In a letter to voters signed by elected officials including two state senators and a state representative, opponents wrote, “Proposition One is not about local transportation needs — it’s about increasing taxpayer subsidization of the Utah Transportation Authority.”

Barron said the UTA was not allowed to encourage voters to support the measure and didn’t discuss it other than to provide basic information. But he noted, “Utah is a big state with a lot of very long mountainous roads that freeze in the winter and get very hot in summer. It does cause roads to crack. We get more than our share of potholes.”

The proposition passed in Carbon, Davis, Duchesne, Rich, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Grand, Tooele and Weber counties. Along with Salt Lake and Utah counties, it did not pass in Beaver, Box Elder, Juab, Morgan and Uintah counties.