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McEntee: Democrat has her reasons to buck colleagues

Published May 7, 2011 9:53 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was pretty much a Republican sweep as the Utah Senate voted to override Gov. Gary Herbert's veto of a transportation bill that would have earmarked as much as $60 million a year for road construction.

The anomaly came when Democratic Sen. Karen Mayne, a fierce defender of her West Valley City constituents, sided with her GOP colleagues.

Mayne's explanation was simple. Her already sizable district is growing, congested and is hard to get around by car and certainly by bus, as a result of the Utah Transit Authority's own budget woes and its increasing emphasis on TRAX.



"We can't walk to the store. We get in our car and go," she said during Friday's Senate debate. "That's what we do in West Valley City. We don't have city blocks, we have county blocks."

Work is continuing on the Mountain View Corridor, which will connect northern Utah County with the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley. As these things do, it will take a toll: 54 houses are scheduled for demolition to make room for the freeway.

But for those that remain, there's no UDOT money for sound walls that would protect people from the freeway itself and the clamor of an estimated 24,000 cars and trucks roaring by every day.

"I don't want a chain link fence to be the only barrier," Mayne said.

She's also an outspoken champion of labor and the men and women who would find jobs in the construction trades.

What she's looking for is an "avenue" of funding to build the freeway and other projects now, when costs are low and people need well-paying work. Providing people with the means to get around smoothly and safely also will encourage development — new businesses, services, entertainment — her district needs.

But Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero said there was no reason to rush through SB229, which would take effect in 2013. Not, he said, when other options, including a possible increase in the gas tax, haven't even been discussed.

"They're asking us to place transportation needs above everything else the state does," he said.

Democrat Pat Jones said road construction has "taken primacy" over education, law enforcement and human services. Putting aside passage, she said, offers time to "take a clinical look at what the needs are."

The only Republican to vote against the override was John Valentine, citing the $326 million already set aside in earmarks (which our congressional delegation has been persuaded to denounce). The override passed, 21-3.

In the end, it was Sen. Dan Liljenquist who put a fine point on the discussion. He quoted the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who said, "Politics is not an art of the possible; it consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."

Which, amid all the decorum of the chamber, is pretty much how it went on the hill on Friday.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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