A bill that would give ski resorts a sales tax exemption on lift tickets if they plow the money into snow making and slope grooming equipment has received the support of the board of governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.
However, because others may also be asking for sales tax exemptions, and in light of the heavy push to eliminate the sales tax on food, board members will appoint a task force to study the entire sales tax issue.The action came during Tuesday's board meeting when Gary Fisher, chairman of the chamber's State Legislative Action Committee, presented three bills that have been approved by the chamber's executive committee.
He discussed SB34, sponsored by Sen. Lyle W. Hillyard, R-Logan, that would allow ski resorts to take the sales tax collected on ski lift tickets and spend in on capital improvements rather than remit it to the state. A fiscal note accompanying the bill estimates it will cost the state $2.6 million in lost revenue.
Wm. James Mortimer, board chairman, said the executive committee gave its approval to the bill and forwarded it for the board's vote. But he also encouraged Fisher to impanel a task force to study all aspects of the sales tax issue.
Approval of SB34 came on a 17-3 vote. One of those voting against approval of SB34 was W. Mack Lawrence, Utah vice president and chief executive officer of US WEST Communications, who said he knew of a public utility (his own) that could use some tax exemptions.
A few other board members also said the board should be aware that others will probably make similiar requests for tax exemptions.
Fisher said SB34 came from the Utah Ski Association, which is trying to compete with ski areas in neighboring states, mainly Colorado. That state exempts ski lift tickets from sales tax.
The loss in sales tax revenue will be recouped, Fisher said, because snow making machines will entice more skiers to the slopes as early as Thanksgiving. In addition, he said, the state will benefit from sales tax collected from skiers who spend money in Utah.
In other action, the board approved of SB24, sponsored by Sen. Haven J. Barlow, R-Layton, that would allow only punitive damages to be awarded only when compensatory or general damages are awarded in lawsuits. Fisher said Barlow has introduced similar bills in previous sessions, but SB24 is more conservative.
The board also approved the concept of preventing hostile takeovers of Utah companies. Fisher said the bill addressing this issue is still being written, but it has the support of Questar Corp., Mountain Fuel Supply Co., Utah Power & Light Co. and Union Pacific Railroad.
Board members also received a briefing from the Wasatch Development Group on its proposal to install dikes between islands in the Great Salt Lake to create a massive fresh water lake. Following the presentation, Mortimer said the executive committee needed to look at the proje-ct before making a recommendation to the board.