Utah lawmakers override Herbert veto of road bill

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers Friday passed a bill vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert earmarking tens of millions of dollars to transportation projects. A second override of a bill requiring state agencies to be open five days a week remained undecided. The House passed the override but senators delayed their vote until Saturday night while they scrambled for the needed support. By committing the money for roads through Senate Bill 229, the state can pay for the future construction and maintenance that is the “life blood of the economy,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan. The bill will dedicate 30 percent of the growth in sales tax revenue to transportation. It is estimated that will guarantee almost $60 million in 2013. “We move people, we move goods, we move services,” Ivory said. “That requires effective transportation services.” The veto override required two-thirds majority in both chambers, and it narrowly passed. In the House the vote remained open for nearly 10 minutes while Republican leaders tried to find the one vote they needed. It finally passed 50-18 in the House, and 21-3 in the Senate. Herbert said in a statement the bill reduces the flexibility state government needs to maintain a strong budget. “Today’s biggest loser is education,” Herbert said. “I vetoed SB229 because it earmarked priority funding for transportation, potentially putting at peril funding needed for education, public safety, and other critical public needs. It’s a bad way to allocate our very limited state resources.” The bill also placed priorities in the wrong place, Sen. Pat Jones, D-Cottonwood Heights, said. “This is too big of a chunk to take out of the general fund,” Jones said. “The message is that roads have primacy over other critical needs.” While the money is initially placed in the transportation fund, it can easily be used for other needs, said sponsor Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton. That is what the state has done during the recent economic downturn, which is why many roads are starting to crumble, Adams said. Herbert vetoed four bills this year, but the Legislature only debated overrides on two of the bills.

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