Mayors join public fray over Wasatch Front air quality

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 5:55 p.m. MST

"It hasn't been received too well," said Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton. "The problem with gas tax is we keep talking about it but it's hard to get anyone to put their arms around it."

Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said he agrees that Utah lawmakers need to repeal the law that prevents air quality regulators from implementing tougher limits.

"You've got a national standards that may be high but is not addressing the particular needs on the local level," Davis said, noting the problems are different in Salt Lake Valley than they are in Cache Valley or Utah Valley.

But a Republican colleague expressed caution.

"I think we need to be very careful about looking at a standard that would be different than the federal government," Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said.

So far this session, it has been mostly Gov. Gary Herbert in the hot seat with clean air activists who claim he is not doing enough to tackle the air quality problem. Multiple rallies have been held, including a "coff-in" Wednesday at his offices.

On Thursday, Herbert said directing sales tax revenue to UTA is "worth discussing," but he is not ready to support it at this point.

"There's some concern about frugality at UTA and how much more we need there," he said.

Herbert added that a gas tax increase should also be a topic of discussion, but he stopped short of saying he would support it if it was diverted to mass transit.

"I'm not certain I am there yet," he said.

He added that a possible gas tax increase is an issue that keeps cropping up.

"What we've lost in inflation bears discussion."

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Dennis Romboy

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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