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Deal struck on massive Utah infrastructure spending bill

File Photo: UTA buses
Posted at 2:47 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 19:49:51-05

SALT LAKE CITY  — House and Senate Republican leaders have struck a deal on a massive infrastructure spending bill, lopping off nearly a billion in taxpayer dollars from the total price tag.

A new version of House Bill 433, sponsored by House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, and Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, will spend nearly a billion dollars in one-time money the legislature has on transit improvements, road projects and outdoor recreation.

But now, the state will only borrow $264 million. The original bill proposed $1.4 billion in bonding and $800 million in one-time spending.

While House leadership was supportive of the original bill, the $2.2 billion price tag had made Senate leaders nervous. They still worried about economic uncertainty in the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Spencer Cox also had concerns about the massive spending request.

On Tuesday, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, confirmed a deal had been reached.

"It eliminates bonding and actually uses one-time money for, several hundred million, maybe almost a billion dollars of one-time money for infrastructure," he said.

Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, signaled that her caucus was supportive of the agreement, but she wanted to ensure money was set aside for pandemic needs.

On the House floor, the bill passed without issue. House Majority Whip Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said the new bill includes a study on traffic congestion solutions for the Cottonwood canyons and put outdoor recreation in the main budget.

Also on Tuesday, lawmakers finished spending the bulk of the state budget — about $21.7 billion — with increases in education funding and affordable housing.