Special Session to Fix Road Funding Coming in November

Utah State Capitol 31Agreement has been reached over a $14 million mistake in B&C road funding formula, and look for a Nov. 16 special session to make the final fix.

As first reported in UtahPolicy, two times now Utah legislators have worked on reforming the state’s transportation funding system, only to twice somehow foul up a formula to distribute new gasoline taxes between cities, towns and counties.

The mechanics have now been agreed upon by the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Association of Counties, both who reported to legislative party caucuses Wednesday.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, all but threatened members of his GOP caucus that they must vote for the compromise, without changes, or face. . . well, a very unhappy speaker.

In broad terms, the agreement between the cities and counties holds harmless the same group of local governments that the original 2015 huge transportation funding reform bill did.

And it reworks a complicated formula for distribution of B&C road funds for the increased gasoline taxes.

There were some “unfair” payments to counties earlier this year, in which cities believe they were shorted.

But, Hughes told his open House GOP caucus, “if it comes down to raw politics” the rural counties don’t have the votes in the Legislature to keep the current extra road monies.

Rural counties will simply lose a political fight in the Legislature; a fight the Legislature doesn’t want, anyway, said Hughes.

So, the counties came to the table along with the cities and UDOT officials, and while the two local governments were “wide” apart at the start of negotiations, there is an agreement now, the caucus was told.

Part of that agreement is that the cities won’t try to “claw back” from counties the overpayment of B&C road taxes distributed earlier this year, said Hughes.

“Fourteen million dollars is a lot to bicker over,” said Lincoln Shurtz, government affairs director for the county association. “Glad we got to this point,” he added.

Hughes, only partly joking, said he wants the November special session solving this problem to be “the fastest in history.”

He said he’s even thought about holding it before lunch on Nov. 16 – the final interim study day for lawmakers this year – and not letting legislators eat until the fix it bill is passed.

More likely the special session will be called around 4 p.m. after legislators have finished the final day of interim committee hearings.

Only Gov. Gary Herbert can call a special session, and he along sets the agenda. However, he does so in consultation with GOP legislative leaders.

And Hughes said he hopes the B&C road fund fix is the only item on the agenda.