Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski called for not one, but two tax increases in her 3rd annual State of the City address Wednesday night. The additional revenue would pay for big transportation, housing and infrastructure projects.
Biskupski struck a passionate tone in this year’s address as she looked back on the first half of her term.
“A little more than two years ago, my team and I walked into city hall with a vision for building a city for everyone,” she said. “We certainly knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Biskupski said the vision required fundamental shifts in how Salt Lake City had been operating.
“But I can stand here today and say to you that we are seeing positive results from the change my team has brought to city hall,” Biskupski said.
The mayor spoke at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center, which she praised for investing in students who face challenges. She followed with her own vision for reinvesting in Utah’s capital city. It’s facing challenges like homelessness, an affordable housing shortage and poor air quality. Last year the city adopted it’s first-ever transit master plan-expected to enhance public transportation. Biskupski also launched the city’s first housing plan in 16 years. She’s hoping to pay for those plans with a half percent sales tax increase. And she wants to ask voters to approve a $87 million-dollar bond to fix the city’s crumbling streets, sidewalks and parks.
“We have set the course,” she said. “We have done all the work. The plans are in place and now we need the funding.”
Councilman Chris Wharton said the mayor’s priorities mirror the council’s priorities. He said the council and mayor will be gauging the public’s appetite for the tax increase and bond over the next few months.
“But this is really spurred because so many residents said they would support and would pay more if we could get serious infrastructure upgrades and that they would pay more for transit,” Wharton says. “This is something that a lot of people have come to us about.”
The Utah Legislature voted in 2015 to give Salt Lake City the option to raise the sales tax when it was selected as the location for the new state prison.