Analysis: Survey shows Utahns support major elements of Senate infrastructure bill

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a much-debated and much-compromised bi-partisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill Tuesday morning, with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney voting in favor of the legislation. The bill includes $550 billion in new funding, added to $650 billion in already-scheduled spending.

Enough Republican senators are expected to join Democrats in supporting the bill for it to pass the Senate and be sent to the House.

Romney has been in the middle of engineering the legislation and negotiating its contents with a group of GOP and Democratic senators. He acknowledges that the legislation is not perfect, and contains measures he would prefer not to include.

But while some Republicans, including other members of Utah’s delegation, say they would support a less costly infrastructure bill, Romney said that, realistically, such a bill is simply not going to be passed.

This bill, he argues, is the result of months of negotiations and compromise, and is the only bill that has any chance of winning approval in the Senate and House. And it’s better than nothing, and much better than a Democratic alternative with a much higher price tag.

According to a new public opinion survey, most Utahns tend to agree with Romney. The survey was conducted July 12-14 and was commissioned by the Utah chapter of The Nature Conservancy (of which I am a member). It was conducted by the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, with a sample size of 600 Utah registered voters and a possible error margin of plus/minus 4 percent.

The survey shows some 61 percent of Utahns support some type of infrastructure package being passed, with only 27 percent opposing. And strong support exists for key items included in the legislation, such as upgrading and improving water infrastructure and storage capability; upgrading the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure; overhauling and upgrading transportation across the country, including roads, bridges and rail lines; updating the country’s electric grid; encouraging more products to be made in the U.S. to reduce economic reliance on China; and expanding and improving broadband Internet access in rural communities.

Overall support for infrastructure legislation rises to 70 percent when specific items like those above are mentioned as being included in the package. And overwhelming support exists for using federal infrastructure funds to invest in greater water conservation efforts.

While the legislation does not include any tax increases, a majority of Utahns would even support increases in certain taxes or fees to pay for infrastructure improvements. These include placing fees on goods imported from other countries that generate carbon emissions in their production; raising taxes on households that make $400,000 or more a year; and raising the tax rate on corporations from 21 percent to 28 percent.

The survey also showed that while Utahns strong support the physical infrastructure bill, they do not support the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” legislation being proposed by congressional Democrats.

Some Republicans argue that passing the $1.2 trillion physical infrastructure bill will “enable” the Democrats to also pass their $3.5 trillion bill because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has linked them.

But Romney and others say passing the infrastructure bill will make it less likely the $3.5 trillion bill will past because some moderate Senate Democrats will decline to support a bill with such an enormous price tag, having just approved a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.