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Legislature passes bill for automatic gas tax increases

FILE - A gas pump shows of the rising prices per a gallon of gas at a Tesoro station in Salt Lake City Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Utah lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to launch automatic increases in the state's gasoline tax.
FILE - A gas pump shows of the rising prices per a gallon of gas at a Tesoro station in Salt Lake City Wednesday, April 6, 2011. Utah lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to launch automatic increases in the state's gasoline tax.
Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday to launch automatic increases in the state's gasoline tax.

The House voted 58-15 to passed SB276, which is estimated to increase taxes about 0.6 cents per gallon beginning in 2019 and 1.2 cents a gallon in 2020 by reworking the complex formula for the state's gas tax approved in 2015.

The bill previously passed the Senate 26-2. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration.

If signed by the governor, the bill would increase cost for a motorist who drives 12,000 miles a year in a vehicle that gets 20 miles to the gallon about $3.60 in 2019 and $7.20 in 2020, according to the bill's fiscal note.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, said consumers likely won't see an increase until 2018 or even 2019, depending on the fuel market. He said a built-in price ceiling would cap the tax at about 40 cents

The bill comes after lawmakers two years ago voted to raise the gas tax by 4.5 cents a gallon, with a formula for automatic tax hikes if gas prices increase.

But when the new law was passed, gas prices were high, and since then prices have shrunk. That meant the taxes anticipated for next year would not have been realized.

The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said the automatic increases are needed to keep up with inflation to help maintain Utah roads.