Lawmakers may revive bill to tax statewide counties to fund homeless shelters in Salt Lake

Homeless ShelterThere’s a hiccup with a bill GOP leaders want to help local governments accept – and pay for – homeless resource centers.

Rep. Steven Eliason’s HB452 failed to get out of a House standing committee Monday – a tie vote stops a bill and Eliason’s was a 4-4 tie with four members of the Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee absent.

“I didn’t time it right,” Eliason admitted to UtahPolicy Tuesday morning. Just minutes after his bill had a tie vote a member showed up who supports it.

But Eliason is not giving up. There are two possible alternatives:

— While Eliason, R-Sandy, doesn’t want to jump the process, GOP House leaders could make a motion to lift HB452 from Rev and Tax and put it on the floor calendar for a vote.

Such power moves used to be common in the House and Senate, but lately, leaders don’t like circumventing committee action.

— Or the essential parts of HB452 could be amended into House Majority Whip Francis Gibson’s HB441, another homeless bill that has passed the House and is in the Senate for consideration.

If the Senate passes that bill, then Eliason’s proposal would get a floor vote in the House as the amended bill would head to the House for concurrence. That way GOP leaders would at least get a floor vote of all 75 members on Eliason’s carrot-and-stick approach encourage a city to take a homeless center.

There’s another route, says Eliason: Don’t give local governments the carrot-and-stick options in the 2017 Legislature.

But take care of it next year, or even in a summer special session.

“There’s little chance that a center would be built and open” by July 2018, Eliason told UtahPolicy.

So the incentives could still take place next general session and be retroactive to January 2018.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, along with Gibson, R-Mapleton, are the political muscle behind the state helping out with the homeless problem.

And both reportedly want the carrot-and-stick process in Eliason’s bill.

It died in committee after several conservative Republicans didn’t like the provision whereby county officials could raise their property taxes slightly to offset a contribution made to a city that will host a homeless center.

In general, the conservatives are against tax hikes, but especially don’t like to give power to local officials to raise taxes without the approval of their voters.

In any case, the issue of county governments who don’t take a homeless shelter having to donate a bit of property tax revenue ($3 million statewide) to cities who do take homeless centers is not dead for this session – which ends at midnight Thursday.

And even if it doesn’t come up again, there is time to implement it before three new shelters open in Salt Lake County sometime in late 2018, or early 2019.