HB 176: Cash for Clunkers for Cleaner Air
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Clean air is a hot topic in Utah, and different legislative proposals have been attempted and enacted over the years to help attain it. Among the proposals this year is House Bill 176, sponsored by Representative Jeff Stenquist
This bill aims to create a Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program, providing potentially millions in taxpayer-funded grants to pay people to trade in their vehicles for newer ones. A similar bill passed the House last year in a split vote, but did not get a Senate vote.
Specifically, grants of up to $5,500 would be given to people who earn below 300% of the federal poverty level and who owned a vehicle made before 2003 that has failed an emissions test.
The program also authorizes the creation of a taxpayer-funded “public service campaign” to educate the public about the program’s existence.
The state has previously operated a similar program for old lawnmowers, providing taxpayer dollars to help remove gas-powered engines from circulation—with little apparent impact. And the federal government previously operated a similar program, spending around $3 billion. In recent years, a study was done by economists from MIT and Texas A&M and they found that not only was the federal program poor economic policy, but it did little to help the environment as well.
While cleaner air is an important goal, paying people with taxpayer money to get newer cars is an improper use of government spending.