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New fees to add $1.7 million to state's coffers

If you drive a car, watch cable TV, drink beer or are a senior citizen who visits state parks, you likely will soon be paying more for those activities.

Dozens of tax increases and "revenue enhancements" were floated during the 45-day session, some more serious than others.

But in the end, only a few taxes were actually raised this Legislature. As in other years, dozens of fees were raised to keep pace with the cost of actually issuing the licenses or overseeing the state regulation of the industry.

Unlike residents in many sister states, which are seeing millions of dollars of tax hikes to close budget shortfalls, Utahns got away relatively free this year.

Some of the tax and fee increases imposed will show up on your bills.

For example, cable and satellite TV subscribers will see the state and local sales tax (around 7 percent) on their bills. That's a $2 to $5 a month increase.

Other actions may or may not be seen, depending on whether the businesses taxed pass along the increased costs to their customers.

Lawmakers increased the state underground storage tank insurance fee by 2 cents per gallon of gasoline sold at the wholesale delivery.

Most small-to-medium-size gasoline operations belong to the fund, said Senate sponsor Bill Wright, R-Alberta. But whether that 2-cent-per-gallon increase will be passed along to customers at the pumps in the competitive gasoline market remains to be seen.

If you drink beer, the increased beer tax should add about 1 penny per can. And the state-mandated 61 percent mark-up on wine and spirits is being raised to 64 percent. And the fees paid by establishments wanting to sell liquor will go up significantly.

All told, the beer and liquor taxes/fees will raise $4.1 million for increased DUI enforcement, liquor cops and alcohol education.

Lawmakers did away with the "Fun Pass," the senior citizen pass that let older citizens enter free into state parks and recreation areas.

The Fun Pass was costing the state an estimated $600,000 a year. But parks officials estimate nearly half the seniors won't visit parks if they have to pay, and so the change is estimated to bring only $300,000 into the parks budget.

Some of the biggest tax increases this year were levied on waste companies. Envirocare, which disposes of low-level radioactive waste, will see its fees increased by 50 percent from 10 cents a cubic foot to 15 cents.

And hazardous-waste company Clean Harbors will now see a doubling of fees from $14 to $28, plus a 3-percent gross-receipts tax.

Other commercial waste companies that take regular garbage will also see fee increases, and some industrial and construction garbage exempt from state fees will now pay a 50-cents per ton fee.

Also adding money to state coffers by the end of next year is the streamlined sales tax, which will allow the state to levy sales taxes against Internet and catalog purchases because of a simplified sales tax structure. Although approved this session, it will be studied during the coming year and will not take effect until July 1. 2004.

Legislators decided to raise dozens of special professional license fees. Mortgage loan officers will be licensed and have to pay a fee. Current fees for a barber's license and other regulated vocations will also go up.

All told, the state will gain an estimated $1.7 million for the fees. (See chart.)

One of the new, sad fees: It will cost $12 for a death certificate for a still-born baby.

Contributing: Jerry D. Spangler, Amy Joi Bryson