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Thanks to large donations from a few big-name companies, the group leading the campaign for Proposition 1 which would increase sales tax for transportation and transit raised another $231,000 in the past two months.
That brings the total gathered by Utahns for Responsible Transportation Investments to $675,000, according to pre-election campaign financial disclosures.
That is more than some recent successful Utah congressional campaigns managed to collect. For example, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, raised $559,000 in his 2014 race.
The pro-Prop 1 group is raising the big money even though opponents have waged no campaign of their own and collected no money. Meanwhile, URTI has funded plentiful mailers, robocalls and ads on TV, radio, billboards and social media.
Recent large contributions to help Prop 1 included $50,000 from Gail Miller, owner of the Utah Jazz and the Larry H. Miller companies, and $50,000 from the Vivint Gives Back Foundation. Vivint just purchased the naming rights to the Jazz's arena.
Through a spokeswoman, Miller declined to comment about her big donation.
Another recent large donation of $25,000 came from civil contractor Stacy and Witbeck, which built some TRAX, FrontRunner and streetcar projects for the Utah Transit Authority.
Also, $20,000 each came from the Siemens global engineering firm and from the Utah Workers Compensation Fund, a quasigovernmental insurance agency.
Giving $10,000 each in the past two months were Rocky Mountain Power, Questar, Price Realty Group and Wells Fargo Bank.
"It's been received very well in the business community," Abby Albrecht, campaign director for the group, said about the Prop 1 effort.
She said companies support the move to raise sales tax for transportation by a penny for every $4 in purchases because it helps them move goods and services for their businesses.
"It's great to see a slew of broad-based businesses really understanding the importance of integrated transportation and how it affects the economy," Albrecht said.
But many donors also are directly involved in building highways or mass transit projects.
At least $233,000 came from companies involved in road construction, and at least $50,000 came from those who build buses or have built projects for UTA.
That included big donations of $50,000 each from two road-construction firms, Staker Parson Cos. and the Clyde Cos., both based in Utah; $55,000 from Parsons Brinckerhoff, a global engineering company; and $25,000 from California-based Gillig, which makes some of the buses used by UTA.
Such donations irk Evelyn Everton, Utah director of Americans for Prosperity, which opposes Prop 1.
"The list of donors to Prop 1 are the who's who of road construction companies who will be kept busy with taxpayer-funded contracts for years to come," she said in a statement Thursday.
"I trust that voters will see through the Prop 1 marketing ploys and send a message to the government and to the Utah Transit Authority that we have been taxed enough. Local governments and the UTA need to do more with the money we are already giving them," she said.
Transportation companies are "a natural place you focus on when you are fundraising," Albrecht said, and they are the first to understand the importance of Prop 1.
Many of the Prop 1 donations came in large chunks. The top donor, the Salt Lake Chamber (which formed URTI) provided $166,000; five donors gave $50,000 each or more; and three gave $25,000.
Utah law puts no restriction on the size of donations allowed, requiring only that they be disclosed.
Proposition 1 will be on the ballot Tuesday in 17 counties, including all the large Wasatch Front counties. Legislative fiscal analysts figure it could raise $108 million if it passes in all those counties. It can pass or fail in one county and not affect passage in another county.
In Salt Lake County, analysts figure it would generate an estimated $57.8 million costing about $53 per resident.
Along the Wasatch Front, 40 percent of the money would go to the UTA for transit; 40 percent would go to cities and unincorporated-area service districts for roads, trails, bike paths and other projects; and 20 percent would go to counties for projects of regional importance.
In counties without a transit district, 40 percent of the money would go to cities and 60 percent would go to counties.