Unlike many other state agencies, the Utah Department of Transportation will not have to swallow massive budget cutbacks, thanks in part to bonding the Utah Legislature has approved.
The Legislature has passed SB239, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, which raises motor vehicle registration fees by $20. The new fees, an estimated $52 million, will be put in the Transportation Fund. The bill also allows the state to bond for about $3 billion in transportation projects, including nearly $2 billion to rebuild I-15 in Utah County. Bonds will also be used to begin the Mountain View Corridor in western Salt Lake County and the Southern Parkway, an airport road in St. George.
There was $270 million in ongoing revenue for transportation projects, coming from the sales tax from car parts. The governor and the Legislature disagreed on what to do with that money. The governor wanted to use that money to help other state projects, and bond for all transportation projects. The Legislature wanted to keep the money in the Transportation Fund and they decided to bond against it, which is what SB239 does, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, co-chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee.
The federal economic stimulus package will help the state, Hillyard said, bringing $213 million to Utah in road projects. "It enables us to not use some of our own money from the Rainy Day Fund," Hillyard said.
The state's reserve, or Rainy Day Fund, has $414 million, plus an additional $100 million that the Legislature has set aside for the fund during the session. The fund will be available or the state to dip into if the recession lingers on, Hillyard said.