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Activists campaign for a state-wide carbon tax in Utah

A new proposal would replace taxes at the grocery store with taxes on pollution. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Utah needs tax reform, lawmakers say. Gov. Gary Herbert and the members of the legislature have been scrambling to balance the state’s budget, but a major problem has met them every step of the way: where is the money going to come from?

So far, our lawmakers have been pushing toward covering filling in the fiscal gap with increased taxes on food bought at the grocery store – but one group of activists has a different solution. They want to cut Utah’s food tax completely and, in its place, introduce a carbon tax that would target heavy polluters instead.

The Clean the Air Carbon Tax Act

Fuel Tax carbon tax

The proposed gas tax would charge a 10-cent tax per gallon at fuel pumps. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The “Clean the Air Carbon Tax Act“, as it’s called, was drafted up by a group calling themselves the “Clean the Darn Air Campaign.”

Their proposal is to fill in Utah’s tax revenue gaps by requiring companies and individuals to pay for the use of coal, dyed diesel fuel, fuel gas, and for several electricity sources while offering grants for companies that can cut their emissions down.

It’s not the first time the idea’s been proposed. Yoram Bauman, one of the chief sponsors on the bill, previously tried to get the idea passed in Washington State, while Rep. Joel Briscoe tried to get a nearly identical bill passed through Utah’s House of Representatives. Both men were unsuccessful; but this time, they’re planning on taking the idea directly to the voters.

The group has filed an application to have their carbon tax proposal appear as a ballot initiative in the 2020 election. They’re hoping that, even if they can’t get lawmakers to support it, they’ll be able to get the public behind it, instead.

That, however, may be a challenge. The group will need to collect 115,000 signatures in support of the idea by next year to get on the ballot, is definitely going to affect people’s wallets. The group is expecting that, if passed, the bill will introduce new taxes that include:

  • $11 per metric ton of carbon dioxide
  • $0.10 per gallon of gasoline
  • About $0.01 per kilowatt-hour of electricity

That, some Utah lawmakers believe, is going to make it hard for the proposal to win popular support.

“I don’t think this stands a chance,” Sen. Todd Weiler said, appearing on KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic. “No other state’s done this. Not even the most liberal states.”

Weiler stands by the food tax idea, which he views as a more realistic way to solve Utah’s tax revenue struggles.

That idea, however, is precisely what the carbon tax is trying to stop. The proposal specifically highlights the food tax as one of its targets, promising to put 80 percent of all revenues earned through to carbon tax toward ensuring that there are no sales taxes on our purchases at the grocery stores. The other 20 percent, they say, will go toward rural economic development and programs to improve local air quality.

The campaign believes that the carbon tax would raise $75 million in the first year alone if the bill is passed.

Weiler, however, remains unconvinced that that day will ever come.

“We may be here in 10 or 20 or 30 years,” he says, “but I don’t think we’re going to be here next year.”

More to the story

Sen. Todd Weiler joined the Dave & Dujanovic show to discuss this idea and explain why he believes a food tax is the better option.

If you missed his analysis live on the air, you can still catch what he had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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