Sen. Bell wants visitors to share Salt Lake's tax burden

Sen. Bell wants visitors to share Salt Lake's tax burden

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Visitors and commuters to the state's capital city could face higher taxes soon. A bill facing the Utah Senate looks to increase the sales tax in Salt Lake City by 0.7 percent.

Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, is sponsoring the bill. Proponents argue the tax would help pay for essential services and facilities provided to thousands of non-residents every day, such as road maintenance, utilities, and public safety. The revenue would help pay for a brand new public safety building.

Spokesperson for Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker, Helen Langan, says the population of the city increases 72.2 percent every day, as commuters drive downtown to work and visit. That's the second highest percentage daytime increase of any city in the country, according to the last census data estimates.

Langan says a big cost is police services. She says 50 percent of perpetrators and victims of crime are non-residents, a cost the city must eat by providing extra patrol services.

But opponents say now is not the time to impose another financial burden on tax payers. Vice President of the Utah Taxpayer's Association Royce Van Tassell says Utahns are already struggling enough.

"Now is the time when we need to watch out for taxpayers the most. They're already struggling, they're tightening their belts," says Van Tassell. "A tax increase in the last thing they need."

He suggests raising property tax as a more transparent way of funding the projects.

"Instead they try and hide the cost of that project with a little nickel here, a dime there, a quarter tomorrow, where people don't really feel the full cost," van Tassell said.

Langan counters that suggestion by saying a property tax places the burden solely back on Salt Lake City residents. She says that leaves them to pay for the services of almost 140,000 daily visitors.


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