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Carbon tax ballot initiative filed for Utah air quality efforts

Posted at 4:25 PM, Jan 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-13 18:47:47-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A citizen ballot initiative has been filed, seeking to enact a carbon tax to fund air quality measures, rural Utah economic development and eliminate the sales tax on food.

The ballot initiative was filed this week with the Lt. Governor's Office. The sponsors said it will enact a 10 cents per gallon tax on fuel purchases, as well as a penny per kilowatt for electricity.

"It's not just gasoline that’s going to get taxed so it’s also some of that electricity we use. It’s also going to be taxed at the industry level as well so some of our industry-level polluters," said London Kelley, one of the initiative's sponsors. "They would get a small rollout of the tax sale, because we understand they need to stay competitive in the national market and we don’t want to drive them out of Utah. But we do want them to start paying for what they’re polluting and how they're affecting our health."

The initiative would also eliminate the state portion of the sales tax on food making it more budget neutral, said Yoram Bauman, a founder of "Clean the Darn Air" which is backing the ballot measure.

The group tried to get on the 2020 ballot with a similar carbon tax proposal, but it failed to gather enough signatures. Bauman said they are relying on volunteers to collect signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot — but added there is more organization and momentum for it this year.

On Utah's Capitol Hill, House Speaker Brad Wilson said he did not support such an initiative. Bills introduced in the legislature to enact a carbon tax have failed to gain any traction.

"We've got a lot of issues around energy to work on in this state. Making energy even more going to be really bad for Utah families," he told FOX 13 News.

As part of the citizen ballot initiative process, public hearings will be conducted across Utah on what it does and how much it would cost taxpayers. Those will be scheduled by Clean the Darn Air and information on the initiative schedule can be found here. Signature gathering could start in mid-February, Bauman said.