Tuesday, January 27, 2009

State of the State Delivered

With the State of the State behind Governor Huntsman, it appears that the legislature is back atop the main stage of this 45 day long event and will largely be directing the course of action for the next several weeks. While the Governor mentioned issues ranging from ethics reform to renewable energy resources to community service, the legislature in most circumstances has a very different approach than the Governor in almost every category.

The debate back and forth as been less than passive and exchanges have been far more pointed in recent commentary. Many members of the legislature have expressed deep concern regarding possible attempts to do away with party caucus and nominating processes, which were eluded to tonight during the State of the State as efforts to promote more participation in the election process. In addition, the course on ethics reform varies widely both among various legislators as well as the Governor. This will likely be a hot button topic for much of the session and was certainly a center piece to the State of the State.

In related news, the more subtle battle on transportation funding appears to be taking shape as some legislators have eluded to the outstanding bonding capacity that is available for transportation projects ($1.5 Billion) and have encouraged the executive to push for enhanced bonding. It also appears that the Governor is willing to take some projects off the "Hold" list and reengage UDOT on those projects. The question that must be asked is if that is response to the bonding "question" posed by some members of the legislature or is it rather an attempt to gear up for anticipated federal stimulus money.... your guess is as good as mine at this point.

On the revenue front, the gas tax is also getting a lot of dialogue among legislators. It appears that recent polls are in conflict as the recent Deseret News poll state that 70% oppose a tax, yet more detailed polls that identify certain projects that would be funded by a gas tax increase appear to sway polling preference and nearly 70% support a gas tax once they realize which projects would be funded. These conflicts in polling has many pausing to reevaluate where this issue should go. It is anticipated that this will be a negotiation point between that House and the Senate. We will let you know how this one is shaking out as it takes more shape.

On a parting note, not much occurred in committee today for local governments. As in years past, the first week is usually pretty quite. The League of Cities is now in the throws of preparation for tomorrow's Local Officials Day on Capitol Hill. We will let you know how it goes.

Hope to see you there. Enjoy!!!