Backers Hope to Revive Transportation Funding Bill

Backers Hope to Revive Transportation Funding Bill

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Backers of a transportation funding bill that ran afoul of a Democratic filibuster and a threatened veto hope it can be revived at the April special session.

The House-passed bill would have created the Transportation Investment Fund, with money coming from auto-related sales taxes. The legislation would have taken $30 million this year out of the general fund.

Gov. Jon Huntsman expressed concern about the bill on the last day of the session, indicating he would consider a veto because of his concern about earmarking general fund money.

"Right now, it's a matter of education and coming to an agreement on the prioritization of transportation," said Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, the bill's sponsor.

Lockhart is working with other legislators, including Rep. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, to get the governor to put it on the agenda for the April 20 special session.

The legislators met with officials from the governor's office Wednesday. Huntsman did not attend.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said getting the issue on the agenda is a major goal.

He said he regretted not being aware that the bill would be filibustered, which is why the bill was not addressed until the very end of the night.

"I did not recognize we were going to have a filibuster on that issue," he said. "If I had, we would have brought it up earlier. We would have spent hours if it needed that much time. I really did not expect that level of opposition."

The goal is to address projects that are not part of the Centennial Highway Fund, which would be made a subaccount within the Transportation Investment Fund.

Lockhart said the bill does not mandate the sales tax diversion, only that there be a legislative review each year to determine how much of the money should go into transportation.

"After education, this is a critical need and a priority of the state," she said. "We should have to have that discussion. This bill, in some ways, forces the Legislature to discuss (transportation). This bill makes us say, 'This is our goal for transportation.' "

The governor's office said it has not yet been decided whether the bill will be placed on the special session call.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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