UTA’s $2 Billion Debt Means Higher Sales Taxes On The Way

UTA (Utah Transit Authority) TrainThe Utah Transit Authority is a sort of government agency which is mostly funded by taxpayers. It gets some federal government grant money, has some fare revenue, and charges a bit to advertise on its buses and trains. But by far the bulk of its revenue comes from state sales taxes.

And it’s asking for more.

A few years ago UTA made the decision to go all in on FrontRunner and Trax lines. They scaled back bus routes and piled money into building train infrastructure. And they racked up $2 billion of debt in the process.

In 2012 the Legislative Auditor General issued a report expressing concern for UTA’s ability to pay back that debt while still offering competent service. After 2013’s disappointing ridership numbers had to be bailed out by Comic Con, UTA went to the legislature in 2014 and asked permission to raise the cap on how high cities can raise sales taxes to pay UTA’s bills.

HB 388 was introduced in February and would have removed legislative restrictions on cities and counties further raising sales taxes on behalf of UTA. It passed the House 58-10 in March, but failed in the Senate during the final hours of the session. It’s sure to be back next year.

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