SALT LAKE CITY — The state Senate rejected a bill Tuesday that would take away Salt Lake City's ability to raise sales taxes to help offset costs associated with the relocation of the state prison.
"It's like a loaded gun. It could be used anytime in the future," Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, told members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. He is the sponsor of SB180.
Hillyard earlier said being able to add up to a half-cent to Salt Lake's current 6.85 percent tax rate would "make the sales tax really an unbearable amount," especially combined with the potential for another local sales tax increase for transportation needs.
David Litvack, deputy chief of staff to Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, told a Senate committee last week that while the city has no plans to use the option, it "may or may not be necessary to mitigate the impact" of moving the prison.
Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, co-chairman of the Prison Development Commission, said the bill puts him in a position of feeling like he's breaking a deal officials made as part of the prison relocation effort.
The sales tax option was added late in the session last year to legislation dealing with moving the Utah State Prison from Point of the Mountain in Draper. A site west of Salt Lake City International Airport was later selected for the $550 million facility.
Stevenson said lawmakers were aware of the bill and the sales tax option shouldn't have been a surprise to them.
The Senate voted down SB180, 13-15.