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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Bike riders in Salt Lake City, are they friend or foe?

Published: Sunday, April 14 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Providing excellent transportation infrastructure, both good highways and public transit, is a fundamental role of government. Both transportation modes are highly subsidized by taxpayers. Thirty years from now, when another 1.3 million people are crammed into Wasatch Front valleys, our children and grandchildren will be grateful for our foresight. These investments will reduce congestion, help families avoid having to purchase a second car, help air quality, and help us maintain an enviable quality of life.

The airport is now accessible all across the Wasatch Front without having to drive a car or worry about parking. It will become an enormously popular line.

Business leaders promoted an increase in the fuel tax in the last legislative session, but lawmakers declined to pass it. Is this issue still alive?

Pignanelli: The gas tax is based on usage and therefore a fair assessment. I support an increase or peg to inflation index ... especially if we can tax those freeloading bicyclists.

Webb: The fuel tax, a user fee, is one of the few taxes that doesn't keep up with inflation. Thus, the tax has lost almost 40 percent of its purchasing power in the last 16 years. Maintenance on local and rural roads, especially, is at a crisis. Declining fuel tax purchasing power means state and local governments must use more general fund money for roads and highways, in competition with education and other important state and local needs. So this issue is not going away. Thoughtful legislators know it's time to at least stabilize the tax so its purchasing power does not further decline.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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