Senators actually did something for the common man on Friday: They passed a bill that will shorten the lines at vehicle registration stations. But, as with many legislative matters, the good intentions were almost scuttled by a territorial fight.
Senators passed a bill that will require the State Tax Commission and local county assessors to chose who will run vehicle registration stations. Currently, in most counties a car owner must stand in one line to pay his registration fee and another line - often in the same building - to pay his property tax on his vehicle. If the bill is approved by the House, there will be only one line, and you can pay both fees at the same time.That's fine. But the fight came over a uniform taxing of vehicles. Currently, different counties tax the same vehicle differently.
"The same car will have a tax of $41 in one county and a tax of $107 in another," said sponsor Sen. Dix McMullin, R-South Jordan. The bill would require the state Tax Commission to set one rate statewide.
One of the highest taxes is in Salt Lake County. Some "smart" Salt Lake County residents register their cars, trucks or boats in small counties and save on the property tax, McMullin said. His bill will do away with such "tax shoppers."
But, argued senators representing rural areas, that will cost money to their home counties, for the financial incentive will no longer be there to register a car in their counties.
Worse, screamed Salt Lake County lobbyists, counties with high tax rates will lose money if the state-mandated rate is lower than what they're now charging. Finally, senators agreed to tax vehicles at 1.7 percent of their fair market value - a little above what most counties charge - and the bill was passed to the House. Part of the bill's provision is that rates on other property must be decreased accordingly so the county doesn't reap a tax windfall.