The Salt Lake County Council agreed Tuesday night to put a sales tax increase on the ballot this November. The new money would go toward improving roads and expanding TRAX and bus service.
If residents approve the measure, sales tax in Salt Lake County would increase one penny for every four dollars. Abby Albrecht is director of the Utah Transportation Coalition, a leg of the Salt Lake Chamber. She says the local business community supports the initiative.
“It’s moving goods and services,” Albrecht says. “It’s keeping people out of congestion and our local elected officials have been telling us for decades that they don’t have enough money to continue to maintain their local infrastructure and we see that as a big problem.”
Forty percent of the new money would go to Utah Transit Authority, another 40 percent would be set aside for cities and 20 percent would go to the county.
Salt Lake County Council Chair Richard Snelgrove is one of two members of the nine-member council to vote “No” on the proposal. He’d prefer the initiative be considered in a general election when more voters participate.
“A sales tax increase effects 100 percent of taxpayers whether or not they’re citizens or voters,” Snelgrove says. “There are some portions of Salt Lake County where there will be no municipal election.”
But many local government officials expect voter turnout to be especially high this year as the majority of cities in Salt Lake County transition to vote-by-mail.
UTA spokesperson Remi Barron says the tax increase will allow UTA to increase bus and rail frequency, expand hours and build more bus shelters. That’s on top of $6 million in service improvements the agency is already implementing this month.