While House Speaker Becky Lockhart is the elected leader of the House, she was the only member Tuesday to vote against a bill that would shower borrowed money on a long list of local road projects.
HB377, sponsored by House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, passed on a 72-1 vote, with Lockhart as the lone no vote showing, at least, that she is not a dictator in style.
"I am personally getting a little tired of this continually directing the Transportation Commission what to do, as opposed to leaving it up to them," Lockhart, R-Provo, told The Tribune after the vote. "So it was a protest vote."
The Utah Transportation Commission is normally charged with deciding how to prioritize state road projects for available highway funds. But occasionally the Legislature passes bill to direct money to some specific projects, circumventing the normal prioritization process.
HB377 creates earmarks for money that would come from up to $1.15 billion in previously approved bonding, or borrowing, for 17 road projects, as well as $135 million for the Transportation Commission to use for other projects that it will prioritize.
Earmarks range from $3 million for a study on how to improve transportation in the Uinta Basin which may be limiting oil production there to $2.9 million for Utah Transit Authority studies, including one on mountain transportation, and $3 million to the state Office of Tourism for transportation projects associated with annual tourism events..
Earmarks also include a variety of road projects in Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Herriman, Midvale, Murray, Ogden, Sandy, South Jordan, Taylorsville, Tooele, West Jordan and West Valley City.
Dee said his bill also gives Salt Lake County more control over a county-option $5 fee that it added to state car registration fees. Dee said most state highway projects originally intended when that fee was imposed have been completed, so the bill gives the county $3 of the $5 fee in the future.
Dee said Lockhart's lone vote in opposition to his bill is not a sign of difficulty between the GOP's top two leaders in the House. "It it were a problem, I wouldn't have run it," he said.