Turning the "circuit breaker" that gives low-income elderly or widowed Utahns help with their property taxes into a "need-based program" as suggested by one lawmaker would make an additional 55,000 taxpayers eligible for the tax break in Salt Lake County alone, a House committee was told Tuesday.

Members of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee heard testimony on three bills dealing with the program started 10 years ago, but took no action since the amount of money the bills will cost the state in lost revenue has not yet been calculated by the Legislature's fiscal analysts.One of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Grant Protzman, D-North Ogden, would remove language in the law limiting recipients of the tax break to those taxpayers who are either over 65 years old or who are widowed. Protzman said the change would allow anyone needing the help to apply for it regardless of age or marital status. He cited the example of a divorced woman left with young children to support.

But Brent Overson of the Salt Lake County Assessor's Office told the committee that the 7,800 county residents who now participate in the program would be joined by an additional 55,000 taxpayers under Protzman's bill. Several committee members noted that students would be able to apply for the program, which also gives renters a tax break.