SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature gave final approval to a bill Thursday night that would use $5 million collected from local sales tax to help pay for police and fire needs that come with the impact of the three new homeless resource centers slated to break ground this spring.
It was part of a package of two bills state lawmakers passed during the 2018 legislative session to help fund the homeless resource centers' operation and impact on the host cities, including Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake and Midvale.
"This is a critical component of our ongoing efforts to address homelessness in the state of Utah and make sure cities are not overly impacted or at least mitigated to the greatest extent possible," said Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, on the House floor.
On the last night of the session, the House and Senate passed SB235, which would collect 1.8 percent of local government's tax revenue distribution, capped at $200,000 a year. The funds, which would max out at $5 million a year, would be distributed by the Utah Homeless Coordinating Committee to cities hosting shelters that apply for the funds and demonstrate need for additional police or fire protection.
South Salt Lake is among the cities that have lobbied the state to pay for new police officer and firefighter needs they expect will come when the new homeless resource centers open in 2019.
On the second-to-last day of the session, the Legislature also passed HB462, which would use $6.6 million from the state's general fund to pay for half of the three new homeless resource centers' annual operation costs.
The bill had been backed by political heavyweights including House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, who has called it "critical" to the efforts to reform the state's homeless system. Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams has also said he'd pull his support for the South Salt Lake center if a bill to help mitigate costs and impact of the shelters didn't pass.
Both bills now go to Gov. Gary Herbert for consideration.