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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Transportation Initiative

In caucus yesterday, we discussed the Transportation Alliance tax proposal in some detail.

Read the press release and fact sheet.

If their warnings sound familiar, it's because they parallel what many in the state legislature have been saying for years – which is why we tend to fund transportation at such a high level, even when critics charge that we are “paving over [insert a funding request here].”

The strong feeling in the Senate Majority is this initiative is appropriate for debate in a General Legislative Session. We appreciate the Alliance's research and reality check.

It is really not appropriate, however, for a Special Session. "Special" Sessions work nicely for less-complex, consensus items, or bills that have already been fully vetted.

This initiative promises to be a challenging policy discussion attached to a jaw-dropping price tag.

Why the sudden, urgent need to bond for a billion dollars? Proponents say this transit initiative will help avert a looming transportation crisis. There is at least an equal crisis, however, in road funding – and the urgent need to secure transportation corridors before land prices skyrocket. In fact, the same sense of urgency could be attached to any of a number of funding crises (roads, education, Medicaid . . . the list goes on).

Hypothetically speaking, if we were to allow for an increased sales tax on our citizens – would this initiative be the best place to spend that money? Obviously, we need in-depth evaluation, and well rounded debate before we can commit to the kind of funding contemplated by this transit initiative.

That decision is not without controversy. In today’s UPD, LaVarr Webb penned his hope that we will reconsider.
". . . senators acted without even giving the business coalition a chance to make its case that a comprehensive, regional approach to mass transit expansion needs to occur and citizens need a chance to vote this year to ensure good mobility and a strong economy."
Lane Beattie also responded with impressive - characteristic - diplomacy:
"Information is awfully powerful, and there's a reason why the business community is moving forward with this.... Lawmakers just haven't seen that, and we haven't had a chance to lay that out in front of them. We just need to make sure the case is understood. Once it is, we're confident that they will make the right decision."
On the other side of the issue, the Utah Taxpayers' Association noted that we are currently the 4th highest taxed state in the nation. This proposal would bump us up to number 3.

Read their press release here.

This is an important policy question – and the answer will impact every single family in Utah. At this point we are unlikely to change our position on a Special Session.

Consequential decisions.

We would certainly welcome your thoughts.


Blogger pramahaphil said...

It is a difficult and interesting problem. While improving mass transit, may have many beneficial effects on the states highways and for the states environment, is raising taxes the necessary step to achieve that goal. I think a strong focus should be made to raise funds from the private sector -- e.g. revenue bonds from the project revenue.

If all else fails raising taxes should be the last resort.

6/24/2006 11:12 AM  

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