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Senate Panel: Use Sales Tax Earmark For Water

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Judy Fahys/KUER
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Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, (red tie) has introduced SB 80 to dedicate a small percentage of sales tax revenues to a fund for water projects, including controversial ones like the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project.

A Senate panel signed off Wednesday on using sales taxes to help pay for water projects, including the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline.

Senator Stuart Adams is a Republican representing Layton who wants to earmark 1/16th percent of sales tax revenues for beefing up aging water systems and building new water projects like the billion-dollar Lake Powell Pipeline. That amounts to around $35 million dollars a year. Richard Bay, general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, supports this sort of spending as an investment in the state’s future.

“The infrastructure has been the cost of creating this wonderful lifestyle and this economic powerhouse that Utah has become,” Bay told the

Large water districts like Bay’s want the new funding because they say it will cost around $33 billion to meet Utah’s water needs as the state’s population doubles over the next three decades. But groups like the League of Women Voters, Voices for Utah Children and the Audubon Society oppose the new earmark, citing how much water projects taxpayers and the environment.

“The claim that we need these massive water projects,” Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, “these very expensive water projects that will severely impact our water rates, our property taxes and our impact fees in the communities they will deliver water to is far from clear.”

The committee voted to send the bill up for full Senate consideration. Meanwhile, the governor’s budget makers have called for an end to earmarks and they want a hard look at how much Utah really should be spending on water.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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