State gas tax may increase |

State gas tax may increase

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Despite already increasing fuel prices, last week some Utah senators supported raising gasoline taxes.

The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, a Vernal Republican who represents Park City, would add a nickel to the price of a gallon of gas starting this summer.

"If it begins, it will begin on July 1," Van Tassell said.

It would be the first increase in the state’s gas tax since 1997, Van Tassell said.

The measure could raise more than $60 million per year for the highway transportation fund, he added.

Substitute language in Senate Bill 239 would increase the state gasoline tax from 24.5 cents to 29.5 cents per gallon. The federal government also adds taxes to gasoline purchases.

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Also included in the legislation are additional increases of .75 cent per gallon in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

On March 1, the Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted 3-0 to support the bill.

Since vehicles have become more efficient the state has not been selling as much gasoline as it used to making it difficult to repair roads and build highways, Van Tassell said.

"We’re going to get to the point where we’ll have to rebuild them because they’ll go past the repair stage," Van Tassell said. "I wanted to try to see how we could fix that and at least not lose any more ground."

Inflation has also outpaced the gas tax, he added.

"It would take almost 14 cents to get us back to where we were in ’97 in actual dollars, and that’s too much," Van Tassell said. "We’re just coming out of the recession."

He said a typical driver in Utah would pay about $1.66 per month if the tax hike is approved.

"Basically it comes down to a 20-ounce Diet Coke a month. The average driver will contribute that to maintain the highways," Van Tassell said. "For $1.66 a month, or $20 a year for the average driver, it returns huge benefits to the highways."

Pennsylvania resident Bob Deutsch said 5 cents per gallon is a reasonable increase. Deutsch filled a vehicle in Park City on Friday.

"Personally, I’m fine with mores taxes on gas," Deutsch said. "It’s hard to argue with it."

Parkite Alex Brazerol said he was born in Switzerland, where the price of gas is much higher than in the United States.

The tax should increase "so the big trucks would get off the road," Brazerol said.

"Look at the price in Europe," he said. "People drive smaller cars."

But with economic uncertainty and the unrest in the Middle East, Snyderville Basin resident John Dingman said now is not the right time to increase the gas tax.

"It’s probably not a good idea," Dingman said as he pumped gas into his vehicle in Park City. "I think there are other ways they could repair the roads."

Snyderville Basin resident Aaron Gingras said he would support the tax increase if money is needed to fix the roads.

"It probably makes sense if the roads are deteriorating It’s just kind of like salt in the wound," Gingras said. "Their plan seems to be a good one, but gas prices are already high and I’m sure it’s not going to be popular."

If lawmakers approve the increase, the gas tax in Utah would be about the seventeenth highest in the nation, according to Van Tassell.

"I’ve talked to the cities and the counties and they are struggling to maintain roads. This will help them be able to at least stay even and maybe save some city streets as well," Van Tassell said. "Believe me, I wouldn’t ask for an increase unless I had a good reason."