Utah lawmakers to fix gas tax revenue dispute in special session

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers will meet in a special session Wednesday to fix a complicated formula for distributing gas tax revenue that is shorting some cities and counties.

Gov. Gary Herbert called the session Monday after the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties told legislative leaders last month that they have worked out a solution after months of negotiation.

Legislators also will consider a bill that clarifies the definitions of “solid waste” and “solid waste management facility.” Herbert earlier this year vetoed legislation that exempted some recyclable products from the definition of solid waste. He said he would bring it back if some changes were made.

Cities and counties were promised a 17.5 percent increase in road funds as a result of the Legislature raising the gas tax by a nickel in 2015. But some of them were actually losing money under the revamped system.

In fact, 11 rural counties that received less than 1 percent growth per year in transportation funding over the 20 years since lawmakers last raised the fuel tax lost a total of $2 million.

Lawmakers tried to correct that in a bill earlier this year that would have given those counties a 100 percent increase in revenue to reflect the amount the transportation fund had grown since 1996.

But in catching those counties up, there would have been a $10 million shift in funds away from the Wasatch Front. Cities objected, citing a different interpretation of how the revised formula works.

Legislative leaders told the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties last spring to resolve the dispute.

Under the agreement, about $4 million would be shifted to the 11 counties by tweaking the distribution formula again. Cities agreed to not try to get back overpayments made to the counties earlier this year.

Cities and counties share 30 percent of the state’s gas tax revenue.

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