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Signature Gathering Begins For Carbon Tax Proposal That Could Raise Millions For Clean Air

Photo of smog over valley.
Brian Albers / KUER

A group of Utahns is now gathering signatures to get a carbon tax on the 2020 ballot. They say the money could be used for clean air initiatives and other projects.

The group filed its initiative, which they’re calling “Clean the Darn Air,” earlier this year.

It calls for a new tax on fossil fuels to help fund clean air initiatives and economic development in rural Utah — among other ideas.

One of the group’s co-founders, Yoram Bauman, said after lots of public feedback, they decided to increase their budget and now want to raise $100 million for air quality.

There were “just a lot of folks telling us that air quality was incredibly important,” he said. “We also increased the amount of funding for rural economic development to about ten times more than the legislature currently allocates per year — so about $50 million per year for rural economic development.”

Bauman said if voters approve it, the tax would cost an additional 11 cents per gallon of gas and about an extra penny per kilowatt hour of electricity.

The funds would also be used to remove the state sales tax on unprepared food.

“So fossil fuels will cost a little bit more,” Bauman said, but “groceries will cost less, and we’re going to have money to clean the air and promote rural economic development.”

Alegislative fiscal analysis found that the initiative would be a big money maker: it would raise a net $40 million in new revenue its first year and $170 million the following year. The analysis found that the proposed fossil fuel tax would add $130 million while cutting revenue from sales taxes by $90 million.

Gov. Gary Herbert late last month said he has not made a decision on the carbon tax proposal. 

“I’m not supporting it, I’m not opposed to it. I’m willing to have the discussion,” he said.

Bauman estimates his group gathered a couple thousand signatures during their first week. They will need a total of about 115,869 signatures from 26 of the state’s 29 senate districts in order to get on the ballot next November. 

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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