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Legislation pleases Romney

Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney is feeling pretty good about Utah lawmakers.

He went into the 2000 session looking for approval of two potentially controversial pieces of legislation, and by the time the gavel dropped, lawmakers had approved both with barely a whisper of debate or dissent.

"Hosting the world is obviously bigger than SLOC can do alone," Romney said. "The Legislature recognizes they are a critical partner. I am very pleased they have confidence in us and confidence in our plans."

The legislative session was also a learning experience for Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson and other Olympic venue mayors who went to lawmakers demanding that the state abide by a deal struck years ago to help pay for Olympic-related services. They got $13 million in state help, but they also had to agree to tear up an agreement whereby the state had promised to indemnify the cities against losses associated with the Olympics.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved SB272, which diverts $13 million in sales-tax revenue that would have been collected from the sale of Olympic tickets and puts it into an account that will be used by local government to leverage even more federal money to pay for public safety and other services. SLOC also agreed to chip in another $2 million.

House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, extracted a steep price for the $15 million carrot.

First, the venue communities had to agree to conform their rules and ordinances "so that SLOC will be responsible to pay only customary permitting, licensing, inspection fees, taxes and charges" related to the Games. Some local governments had talked about imposing exceptionally high permit fees to recover some costs.

Second, Salt Lake City had to waive any claims against the state for the cost of providing services. As stated in the legislative intent attached to SB272, passage of the bill "does not obligate, bind or commit the state to provide any funds to, or to hold harmless or assist in any way, any public or private entity for the costs of public safety services or any other services associated with hosting the Games."

Lawmakers also passed a bill that will delay by two months a SLOC repayment to the state of $59 million in sales tax used to build Games facilities. SLOC wanted to move the repayment to March 2002 because many Games revenues are to be received after the Olympics conclude in February 2002.

Romney said he knows of no other pieces of legislation that lawmakers must pass in 2001 or 2002. "Everything is ready and in place now," he said.