Utah lawmakers override veto of road bill

| 5/10/2011

Undeterred by a gubernatorial veto, Utah lawmakers voted to approve more money for road work throughout the state.

By the required two-thirds majority, House lawmakers narrowly approved a bill that routes a growing percentage of certain sales tax proceeds for transportation. The Senate voted 21-3 earlier in the day to override Gov. Gary Herbert’s veto.

It marks the third time in 15 years the Utah Legislature has overridden a governor’s veto.

Herbert vetoed the bill, citing an unwillingness to commit sales tax revenue to roads and bridges that would reduce funding for other priorities such as education.

The bill – SB229 – earmarks 30 percent of any increases in sales tax revenues to roads for a five-year period. Starting in 2013, about $59.6 million in sales tax revenue will be shifted from the state’s general fund to the highway fund.

But lawmakers felt the state’s transportation needs have been neglected too long. They argued that funding infrastructure would also fuel economic development.

Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said in a statement that using a portion of the sales tax gives the state “a revenue source that accounts for inflation and allows us to try and solve the cost problem with existing revenues before we consider raising taxes.”

In response to the override, the governor issued a statement about his concern for the effect the bill has on various funding needs.

“I vetoed SB229 because it earmarked priority funding for transportation, potentially putting at peril funding needed for education, public safety, and other critical public needs,” Herbert wrote. “It’s a bad way to allocate our very limited state resources.”

Lawmakers said the governor’s concerns are unfounded. They pointed out that the transportation fund still could be tapped for other sources, if necessary. In addition, the sales tax revenue could be used to help fill a rainy day fund.

The transportation fund has been breached several times as a rainy day fund, most recently in 2010. At that time, more than $110 million was diverted for higher education.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Utah, click here.

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