Herbert nixes money for sound wall along Bangerter Highway seen by some as a giveaway to a real estate developer

Utah Capitol 13

GOP Gov. Gary Herbert on Wednesday used his budget line-item veto power to cut out $800,000 in special spending on road sound walls along property owned by a former Utah House member.

Herbert used a technicality in vetoing Item 136 in SB3, the so-called Bill of Bills, a budget-balancing bill that passes the last night of each Legislature.

As first reported in The Salt Lake Tribune, that item would pay for a sound wall along several acres of undeveloped land owned by a firm controlled by Bryson Garbett, of Garbett Homes.

Garbett, a former GOP House member, hired former House Speaker Greg Curtis, now a well-known lobbyist, to convince legislators that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) made a mistake when the board refused to build the sound walls now.

There are sound walls along that stretch of Bangerter Highway on either side of the Garbett property because there are residential houses there.

But UDOT commissioners didn’t want to build a stretch of sound walls at that location just yet since there was no housing in place. When the housing is constructed, the area would qualify for a sound wall, but now it’s only an open field.

However, Curtis got a member of GOP leadership – who exactly is unknown – to put the $800,000 into SB3, which passed the last night of the 2019 session.

Now Herbert is deleting that appropriation, saying in his veto letter that there is no legal address as the one listed in the SB3 Item 136 line of appropriation.

The intent language says the address is along the “Mountain West Corridor.” That is wrong, the address is really along Bangerter Highway.

But there is an address at 8157 S. Mapleleaf Way in West Jordan – the 26-acre property owned by Garbett.

While there may be a mistake in the labeling – sometimes the Bill of Bills is thrown together by legislative budget staff literally on the fly the final day – Herbert could have let it go through, with a change being made later.

Clearly, however, Herbert didn’t want to be associated with the “sweetheart” appropriation made in the final hours of the session.

Historically, the Bill of Bills is known for such last-minute spending by powerful lawmakers.

Years ago $1 million was set aside for a possible public golf course in the district of a GOP House leader. The golf course was never built and the money never spent on it.

Herbert is not running for re-election next year. But most likely Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is, and what taints the governor in the months running up to the 2020 election could also taint Cox – whom Herbert is strongly supporting for the top job, should Cox decide to get in the race.