Sen. Curt Bramble, in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislatures, says Utah has found innovative ways to break the gridlock surrounding issues like immigration reform and highway funding, offering Congress an example of how to get things done.
On highway funding, Bramble said, “Congress made a commitment to the states and they need to fulfill that commitment that they made. Long term, if they need to change that commitment down that road, that’s one thing, but there’s a commitment.… and we’re here as the collective voice of the states asking Congress to live up to what they committed to.”
He added that the public in Utah “is no different from the public in any other state. They are very frustrated by inaction in Congress, the lack of performance in doing the job. I think they are looking to the state legislature for leadership in the vacuum created by the Congress that isn’t acting.”
Utah did move ahead on its own in 2008 to expand Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City to Provo, a $2 billion project.
“Gridlock imposes a huge cost on the citizens; it’s a hidden tax. We looked at this in 2007 and 2008 when Jon Huntsman Jr. was the governor, and our top priority in transportation was to rebuild and increase the capacity of Interstate 15,” he said.
“We knew that we couldn’t rely on the federal government, so that project was not only the largest capital public works project in the state’s history, it was done literally with no federal funding.”
The state issued bonds and raised the vehicle registration fee by $20 as funding sources for the project, along with some general state revenues and matching funds from Utah County.