SLC mayor proposes sales tax hike to pay for everything from roads to affordable housing

Posted at 8:19 PM, Jan 31, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor Jackie Biskupski is proposing a half-cent sales tax hike to pay for a wide variety of projects that need to be tackled, from crumbling roads to affordable housing and transit improvements.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski gives her 2018 State of the City address. (Image by Arron Healy, FOX 13 News)

In her annual State of the City address on Wednesday night, the mayor announced she would take the sales tax increase granted by the Utah State Legislature as a part of accepting the new state prison.

“By exercising this option now, Salt Lake City can create an ongoing fund to specifically address the growth issues we are facing in housing, transit, public safety, infrastructure, and air quality,” she said.

The sales tax hike would be five cents for every $10 spent in the city.

“This funding would come, not only from local residents, but from those who visit and work in the Capital City — ensuring all who use of our infrastructure help pay for it. Estimated to generate approximately $35 million dollars annually, this opportunity has the power to quickly change people’s lives,” she declared.

In addition to the sales tax hike, Mayor Biskupski proposed taking to Salt Lake City voters an $87 million infrastructure bond to pay for badly needed road repairs and sewer lines. The bond would cost taxpayers about $5 per household, per year.

“If approved by voters, the bond, combined with some possible funding from the sales-tax increase, will finally allow us to implement a ten-year plan to make our streets better for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians,” she said.

In her annual address, which is a prelude to budget talks with the Salt Lake City Council, the mayor touted the accomplishments her administration has made. She said the newly created Department of Economic Development is luring companies to the city (including a major Amazon fulfillment center) and has driven wages up to compete. The mayor said crime has dropped 12 percent across the city.

Mayor Biskupski noted the city’s affordable housing crisis, with wages not keeping up with rising rents. She hinted at her administration’s recent idea for “inclusionary zoning,” and said the city’s Redevelopment Agency has already spent $21 million to buy old motels to turn the land into affordable housing developments.

The mayor was critical of a lack of transit options, including east-west bus routes and a lack of early morning, late night and weekend service. She pledged to work with the city council on options to improve it, including leaning on Utah Transit Authority for more buses in the city.

“This includes improving the experience for transit users and increasing ridership by funding high-frequency bus networks throughout the City,” Mayor Biskupski said. “By taking advantage of our City’s grid system, these networks can fill-in those east-west gaps that limit options for residents and businesses. These gaps currently keep many from giving transit a second thought—because no one wants to be forced to make multiple transfers to simply go a few miles.”

Watch the State of the City address here: