A bill that would funnel about $34 million in Salt Lake County tax dollars each year to the Mountain View Corridor was passed by the House 76-4 Tuesday.

The diverted tax revenue would finance a $300 million bond to purchase land for the proposed highway, which is estimated to cost about $2 billion. Officials at the Utah Department of Transportation are currently studying whether to build the highway as a toll road to pay for part of the cost.

Issuing the bond will "be a significant step forward" in funding the road, said UDOT deputy director Carlos Braceras. "This should address all of the right-of-way needs for much of the Salt Lake County portion of the road," he said.

Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, is the sponsor of HB158. He said during floor debate that he was hopeful the bond would help keep Mountain View from being built as a toll road. In the past, Harper has said that purchasing the land now could cut costs in the future, making the toll road option unnecessary.

The tax revenue for Mountain View would come from the following three areas:

• A $10 vehicle registration fee increase approved by the Salt Lake County Council last year. The money was originally intended to go to purchase land for roads throughout the county.

• One-quarter of a quarter-cent sales tax increase passed about six years ago. The money has been going to build highway projects in Salt Lake County, such as expansion of State Street near 9000 South.

• One-quarter of the quarter-cent sales tax increase approved by Salt Lake County voters last November for mass transit. The Legislature had earmarked this money last year for any new highway.

Salt Lake County officials could not be reached late Tuesday for comment on the bill. But county officials have expressed concern about diverting all the $10 vehicle registration increase to Mountain View. By doing that, no money would be available to buy land for other needed roads, Councilman Michael Jensen said in an earlier interview.

Rep. Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake City, said during floor debate that it concerned him that lawmakers were dictating where Salt Lake County's money should go. "There may be other projects in Salt Lake County that deserve use of that fund," he said about the $10 fee increase.

Lawmakers also amended HB158 to remove a provision that would have increased Utah's gas tax by about 12 cents over the next decade. Lawmakers said that in a year of surplus, they felt uncomfortable raising the gas tax.

"The Legislature giveth and the Legislature taketh away," Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said. "If we give a tax cut, why have a tax on gasoline. You're going to impact people in rural Utah and impact the people we're trying to help by taking the sales tax off of food."

HB158 now goes to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide if the bill should go before the full Senate.


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com