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SALT LAKE CITY -- News that the economy is doing better may not be enough to hold off tough decisions for the state of Utah, and that even has conservative Legislators talking about tax increases in the near future.
Lawmakers don't have a lot of specifics at the moment, but they have enough information to confirm tax and fee increases are very possible, especially in the case of a tobacco tax.
On Friday, Lawmakers like Senate President Michael Waddoups brought up this normally taboo topic at a tax conference.
Waddoups predicted a tobacco tax could pass with very little resistance in the Legislature next year because ground work was laid this year. Still, here could be more increases, like a hike in the gasoline tax.
Talk is even circulating about a new kind of tax: one on services like attorney fees, real estate commissions, health care and more. In the current economic situation, everything is on the table.
"I think, yes, that taxes are going to see pressure to go up. There are some legislators who signed pledges that they will vote against tax increases, and there are some who don't see it any other way," Waddoups said.
Both Legislators and state officials are calling next year's budget situation scary. There is declining revenue at the same time needs are growing in education, transportation and health care.
Lawmakers are learning that a meaningful upswing is at least a year away, and already, some lawmakers are pledging limits about what's acceptable.
"We'll spend any kind of effort we can to avoid raising general taxes. User fees, those charged for certain services, are fair game," said Sen. John Valentine, R-Provo.
The existing rainy day fund is not enough to solve the ongoing shortfalls. The outlook for 2011 is bleak, and the tax talk will be hardcore.