THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Controversial bill that taps Utah transportation money for water projects moves forward
"A controversial bill with the potential to fund unpopular water projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline has secured legislative approval from both the House and Senate.
SB80 was originally designed to create a special water infrastructure fund and divert a 1/16-cent sales tax to it, but was amended on Wednesday to send a portion of the sales tax to the general fund for education. The substitute bill passed 46-26 after a nearly hour-long debate in which many representatives questioned the bill's transparency, necessity and timing.
"I think we're ahead of ourselves right now," Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said before voting against the bill. "I do not believe that it is now or never."
Briscoe urged the House to vote down bill, which he said would save hundreds of millions of dollars for water projects the state hasn't committed to build. Others agreed, raising concerns about the reliability of the data used by the state to project the need for water development, and about the long-term environmental impacts those development projects might have on the Great Salt Lake.
But the bulk of their concerns revolved around questions of how the money in the water infrastructure fund would be appropriated.
"We're going to stop up this money and then wait ... for back room deals," said Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, who also voted against the bill. "That's the way we used to do transportation. I do think we need funding, yes, but there is no criteria for how we are going to award these projects. For that reason — if there were a motion for worry, I think I'd make one.""
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