MAYOR'S MESSAGE - ONE COPPER PENNY AND REBUILDING ROADS
Earlier in the week I parked my car at an office building and went in to a meeting. When I came out, I noticed a shiny new copper penny on the surface of the parking lot. As I have reflected on this item, I thought of the Quarter Cent Local Option Sales Tax for the maintenance and rebuilding of our local and county roads.
Earlier this year the Utah State Legislature passed HB362 for transportation infrastructure funding. This is the first change to the gas tax revenue stream since 1997. Since that time, we have lost 40 percent of our purchasing power due to inflation, effectively making a 24.5 cents per gallon tax in 1997 worth only 14.7 cents per gallon today
HB362 has two parts to it. The first part, effective January 1, 2016, will convert the current 24.5 cents per gallon state gas tax to a 12 percent tax with a $2.45 rack price floor. This is the equivalent of a five cents per gallon increase. There is also a fixed floor and ceiling on this tax. The second part is a Local Option Sales Tax that will cost taxpayers one copper penny for every $4 spent on sales in Utah County. This part would be put on the ballot and voted on by the voters in each county sometime in the future.
This revenue would be split 40 percent directly to the cities to spend as needed on roads, 20 percent to the county for the same purpose, and 40 percent to the Utah Transit Authority to spend on transit items in each community - such as trails and walkways, more frequency of service of buses and trains, more times of service, and more resources to serve the county communities.
Since 1997 our communities in this county have grown by more than 10 percent, while our revenues for our roads have decreased by 40 percent. Earlier this week I attended an event put on by Envision Utah where we discussed how our state is set to double in population in the next 35 years.
If we continue to see our buying power for the maintenance of our roads decline while at the same time our population continues to increase, how will we be able to keep up as communities in servicing the transportation needs of our citizens and businesses? I am not in favor of raising taxes, but I am in favor of taking care of our assets and providing a well maintained transportation system for efficient movement of those who live and work in our cities and county. This is a tax to provide for the future transportation needs of our community. If we don't reinvest, we won't have roads worth driving on and using.
Recently Orem rebuilt a portion of 8th East, which I travel down each day. The city is set to rebuild Center Street on the west side of Orem. It is important to keep up on the roads in each of our cities. If not, it will create major problems for the movement of traffic and economic development and bring higher costs in later years. It is important that we provide for the future of our community. We are set to double in size. We need to take care of our assets to handle that kind of increase. Our land size is not going to double, but our population will. This will put tremendous pressure on our city and community's roads and infrastructure.
I believe that we need to approve the Local Option Transportation Sales Tax to give our local communities a tool to address their needs for today and into the future. Years ago when the pioneers came across the plains, they would plant crops for those after them to harvest and eat. I believe today we also need to invest and plan to provide for those who come after us in our wonderful communities.