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“Overwhelmingly supportive:” I can’t blame readers for being skeptical when they heard that Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, City Council Chair Erin Mendenhall and other city officials believe city residents strongly support adding two new tax increases this year to fix roads, hire more police, incentivize affordable housing, etc.
Online commenters to a story on the tax hikes were, on the contrary, overwhelmingly not supportive.
But let’s face it, neither city officials nor comment boards can claim to be scientifically representative of city residents.
Mendenhall even told the Deseret News/KSL editorial board (I was there) that some people are telling her they want an even higher tax hike. But, alas, the city can’t raise the sales tax any more than the .05 percent the Legislature approved as a way to make up for forcing a new state prison on the city.
The other potential hike, an $87 million general obligation bond advertised as a $5 per year increase on the average homeowner, will be up to voters this November.
Do so many people really want to tax themselves more? If I’ve learned anything over 35 years of following local governments, it is that support for tax hikes usually is not as strong as city politicians make it seem.
The sales tax hike seems a cinch, especially since the City Council can approve that on its own next week and the city can argue much of it will be paid by out-of-towners who visit each day.
But when voters look at their ballots this fall and see the other taxing entities that want a piece of their wallets, including state lawmakers asking for a whopping one-third more in gas taxes and the county wanting a sales tax increase for transit, they may reconsider support for the bond.
A storm in the port: Mayor Biskupski and other city officials told the editorial board they are working with Sen. Jerry Stevensen, R-Layton, in hopes of getting a special legislative session in June to rewrite the structure of the new Inland Port Authority. The idea would be to give the city some of the port’s tax benefits, considering it will sit within city limits.
You’ll recall that state lawmakers created the port within city limits earlier this year while giving the authority the power to zone and the city nothing in terms of revenue.
While it’s easy to criticize the city for wanting to raise taxes, it’s also easy to forget it has roughly one-tenth of the metro area’s population and yet has the burden of being the center of commerce for that area on a daily basis.
State lawmakers like to call themselves conservative, but their decision to put the port in the city without giving the city any help with the burden of servicing it was anything but.
Plowing new ground … The Wasatch Front is losing farmland. That lament has been reported more than once in recent years, along with the story that people want to eat locally grown food.
So it’s doubly sad to read that Farmington, a city with the word “farm” in its name, is thinking about taking 22 acres from a productive private farm and replacing it with soccer fields. This is to make up for soccer fields being destroyed by a new highway.
At the least, this illustrates how hard it is to hang onto agricultural land in a rapidly growing metro area. But if the city actually does this, it’s also an indictment of leaders who don’t seem to value the benefits of having farms in their midst.
Up in smoke: A new survey finds 23.1 percent of Utah kids in the eighth grade or higher have tried e-cigarettes, while 8.6 percent used them in the previous month. Among high school seniors, almost one-third had tried them.
The trouble seems to be, as with marijuana, that many young people think vaping is harmless. State lawmakers ought to do more to regulate these products, which obviously target youth with various enticing flavors.
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Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist of the Deseret News. He has nearly 40 years experience as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Oklahoma, New York City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He also has been an adjunct journalism professor at Brigham Young and Weber State universities.