Rep. Brad Dee: The override session & SB 229

Despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the state of Utah has shown remarkable resiliency. That is in part because of how we manage our ongoing budgets, but also because of how we plan for the future.

Over the past decade, lawmakers have spent significant amounts of taxpayer dollars on infrastructure, including roads, to keep up with population and to draw in businesses that require mobility. The jobs those businesses have brought in have kept Utah’s unemployment rate among the lowest in the nation.

With Senate Bill 229, the Legislature is insuring that we are able to keep up with the infrastructure demands of the next decade – both for our children and for the employers that will need those roads to operate.

There has been some misinformation in the public about the bill so we should first define what the bill does and does not do:

* S.B. 229 does not take 30% of the sales tax and put it to transportation.

*Also, it does not take money from the education fund to pay for transportation.

* The bill does take 30% of new sales tax growth and allocates it to the Transportation Investment Fund by which Utah can repair and construct new roads, which are essential to our economic success. The growth caps out at 17% of total sales tax revenue, approximately the amount of sales tax on transportation related products.

* Focusing tax dollars on transportation while not taking away from existing programs will blunt the need for a gas tax increase. If you don’t save the tax revenue, you spend it. If these funds are spent on other government programs then Utah has to borrow money to fix and construct new roads.

The Transportation Commission has been forced to end preventative maintenance on 45% of our roads and highways. Since these are the veins to our economic productivity, it costs taxpayers much more long-term to repair roads rather than paying for maintenance. If we went into a down year with no economic growth, there would be no money put into the fund. This legislation has a caveat that allows the Legislature to redirect the funds from the account if necessary.

By creating the savings account we can avoid borrowing money. Without the creation of a savings account, some will want a large gas tax for this purpose as the people’s representatives we are opposed to increasing the state gas tax which increases the pain at the pump, especially during a time when gas prices are rising to $4 a gallon.