Senate committee takes no action on bill to add sales tax to water costs

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 5:25 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee adjourned Monday without taking action on a controversial proposal to tack sales tax onto Utahns' water bills to pay for water projects around the state.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the sponsor of SB154, said he wasn't surprised the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee took no action on his plan to add $24 million a year to the state's revolving loan fund for water projects.

The bill was seen as a way to help pay for the proposed $1 billion Lake Powell Pipeline that would carry water to Washington and Kane counties, a project that has a number of critics.

Jenkins told members of the committee that he came up with his plan to ensure future water projects pay their way, not just the Lake Powell Pipeline. He said the revolving loan fund was not keeping up with demand.

But Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, questioned whether some of the $16 billion in pending water projects are really needed. And Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said he's not sure taxpayers should be acting as a bank for water projects at all.

Several members of the public, including Paul Van Dam, a former attorney general now living in Washington County, testified that the area should turn to conservation to accommodate growth rather than the pipeline.

“We are a wasteful county when it comes to water,” Van Dam said.

Ronald Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said there needs to be money to make more water available to growing parts of the state.

“Whether this is the right way to fund water or not, I don't know,” Thompson said. “You can't double the size of this state and not provide water resources.”

The bill remains in the committee, and Jenkins said he probably won't push for further action.

“It was pretty obvious no one wanted to vote on it,” he said.

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