Like other Utahns, residents of Cache County will vote Tuesday on initiatives calling for a reduction in taxes. But unlike others around the state, they also will be voting on a possible quarter-cent increase in local sales taxes.
The tax hike is tied to extending Utah Transit Authority bus service into Logan and nearby communities, as well as linking Cache County to UTA systems in Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo. The quarter cent sales tax already is in effect in those counties with UTA service.There's no doubt that Cache County can use bus service, which it currently does not have. Public hearings have not shown major opposition to the idea and a poll taken Oct. 10 showed 60 percent of county voters favored joining the UTA system.
The proposal includes five bus routes: two in Logan connecting employment centers and Utah State University; one county route connecting Lewiston on the north, Hyrum on the south, and Wellsville on the west, all for a 50 cent one-way fare; an express route between Logan and Ogden, and a worker route between Logan and Morton Thiokol's plant near Tremonton, both for $1.25, and an express route to the Salt Lake International Airport for $8.
Opponents of the UTA question, including the Utah Taxpayers Association, argue that it would result in all citizens paying for a service used only by a few, that higher taxes would hurt the local economy, and that any bus service should be provided privately.
But bus service everywhere in the UTA system is used only by a relative minority. That does not negate its value or the fact that it is there, potentially at least, for all to use.
The experience of Provo and Utah County, where the UTA system was instituted three years ago, showed that as service was phased in, ridership has expanded and so has customer satisfaction.
Moreover, more commuters taking the bus means less traffic congestion. And less traffic congestion means less air pollution.
Voters should take the time to understand the difference between the tax initiatives on the ballot and the UTA tax question - and then vote to support the UTA in Logan. It will benefit not only Cache County, but others in the state as well.