SALT LAKE CITY — Legislators approved final passage Wednesday of a bill that would increase bonding for the new Utah State Prison by $100 million.
The bill expanding the bonding from $475 million to $575 million for the project in northwest Salt Lake City advanced through the House and Senate this week without a public hearing, raising the concerns of cost and complaints from Salt Lake City Democrats.
The bill cleared the House on Monday with a 58-10 vote, and the Senate then passed it with an amendment to correct a spelling error, 23-4, leaving one last vote in the House before forwarding the bill to Gov. Gary Herbert. The House passed the bill 58-13.
The bill's passage comes despite opposition, with Salt Lake lawmakers complaining that costs have increased for a site the city never wanted.
"This was one of the most expensive sites," Senate Assistant Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said on the Senate floor Tuesday, referring to environmental concerns in the area and the need for infrastructure in the remote site.
"We need to be reminded this was a fiscally irresponsible decision that was made by this Legislature, and now we're paying consequences by putting $100 million more to this project," Escamilla said.
But the bill's supporters and the governor said in news conferences Tuesday the prison's total budget has been estimated at $650 million.
In December, the Legislature's Prison Development Commission was told the infrastructure needs would add $100 million to the $550 million project, and about $35 million would be repaid by those benefiting from the improvements.
Herbert included a recommendation for bonding for the $100 million in his proposed budget released later that month, calling the infrastructure "a key factor in spurring the economic development of Salt Lake's northwest quadrant."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylsorsville, said the $100 million for infrastructure costs will be an investment in that development to benefit Salt Lake City and the state.
"Not only will we have pioneering and repayment agreements, there will be property tax and income tax to be generated from the new businesses that will come out to this area," Harper said. Email: email@example.com Twitter: KatieMcKellar1