While debate still remains, legislators moved toward a solution of the difficult AMAX property tax problem Thursday, one that will likely mean small property tax increases on many homes, cars and businesses.

Note the "many." For if lawmakers adopt a plan that most Republican House members like, property taxes on homes will go up in some places, down in others. Meanwhile, taxes on cars will go up in most counties, but down in Salt Lake County.It's a real mixed bag. As House Majority Leader Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City put it: "There is no winning for any of us."

As House Republicans prepared to vote on AMAX solutions Thursday afternoon, the general feeling is that a bill will pass. And most likely that bill will not include new taxes on large businesses, something that Gov. Norm Bangerter and GOP leaders originally desired.

Instead, the property tax shift is aimed mostly at local businesses in an effort to keep homeowner property tax increases to a minimum.

The problem stems from a Utah Supreme Court ruling on AMAX, a magnesium mining company that - like all multicounty mines and utilities - is assessed by the State Tax Commission.

Such state-assessed properties aren't getting a 20 percent assessment discount given local homes and businesses assessed by county assessors. Thus the problem.

At risk is $56 million that state-assessed property owners say they don't have to pay under the ruling.

Under a complicated solution put together by tax attorney Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem, instead of a $56 million reduction, state-assessed property owners would see an $11 million reduction.

Homeowners, local businesses and vehicle owners pick up the difference. It means - on average, statewide - the property tax on homes would go up less than 1 percent, on businesses 3.2 percent, Valentine said.


Average rates may change

Salt Lake County

- Homeowner: Property taxes up about $12 a year; car taxes down about $4.

- Business: Property taxes up about $458; car taxes down about $197.

Davis County

- Homeowner: Property taxes up about $7; car taxes up about $1.

Utah County

- Homeowner: Property taxes down about $1; car taxes up about $6.

Uintah County

- Homeowner: Property taxes up about $18; car taxes up about $30