The looming federal fiscal cliff could overshadow optimistic state revenue forecasts when the Utah Legislature convenes in January, according to Tooele County legislators.
“The budget is always a top concern,” said Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, who will take a new seat in the Legislature representing the rural parts of Tooele County and parts of Juab, Beaver and Utah counties, along with all of Millard County. “But impending federal sequestrations could turn our state’s budget surplus into a deficit situation.”
Nelson is hoping to use some of $300 million in projected extra state revenue for the 2013-14 budget to better fund education.
However, that $300 million surplus could turn into a possible $500 million deficit if the sequestration take place, said Rep. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, who represents Tooele City and Stansbury Park residents.
Sagers has two bills he plans on introducing this session.
For the third time, he’ll put forward a bill that revises laws governing the Utility Facility Review Board hearing times schedule and oversight to eliminate problems that Tooele County faced when fighting Rocky Mountain Power’s Oquirrh-to-Mona transmission line project. Sagers’ bill passed the House 62-0 in 2012 but died in the Senate as time to consider the bill ran out, he said.
Sagers also plans on introducing a bill clarifying what documents are needed when a person renews their driver’s license. Sagers has heard from constituents who have had trouble renewing their license because while they have documents to prove their identification and citizenship, they didn’t bring with them two pieces of mail showing their current address.
“The identification requirements were put into place to make sure we weren’t giving licenses to illegal immigrants,” said Sagers. “We need to make some clarifications in the law so people don’t have these ridiculous obstacles to renewing their license.”
While funding education is a priority for Nelson, he also wants to take a look at some transportation issues that affect Tooele County.
“I want to work with the Utah Department of Transportation and see what can be done to improve safety at Lake Point,” said Nelson. “During rush hour, particularly, that area is very congested. We need to look at possible solutions.”
Nelson also believes that improving public transportation could relieve some of the impact on Tooele’s highways.
“I will introduce legislation putting a representative from Tooele County on the Utah Transit Authority Board so we have representation when they are planning services for our county,” said Nelson.
Nelson also will be keeping an eye out for possible legislation that would move the state prison to Tooele County.
Moving the state prison to Tooele County has been proposed before, but it never went anywhere, said Nelson.
“It is not certain that moving the prison will be proposed again this session,” said Nelson. “But if the subject should come up again, we need to make sure that the relocation would be a financial benefit to the county.”
Nelson said he has not made up his mind if relocating the prison to Tooele County is a good idea.
“I would have to take a look at the proposal and canvass county residents on how they feel before I make up my mind,” said Nelson.
Sagers and Nelson have received their committee assignment for the 2013 session. Both say they received the assignments they requested.
Sagers will serve as the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee and as a member of the Ethics Committee, Revenue and Taxation Committee, and the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Committee.
Nelson will serve as the vice chairman of the Retirement and Independent Entities Committee and as a member of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, the Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee, and the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee.