Utah Shortchanged In Transportation Funding

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) are proudly announcing the 2005 highway bill that shortchanges Utah again. Relaxing in their luxurious taxpayer funded sinecures, the senators enjoyed another year of self promotion and insider gossiping while other states sent energetic senators to fight for their interests. As expected, other states made off with even more Utah taxpayer money while our roads and transit systems will once again be badly underfunded.It isn’t difficult for hardworking senators and representatives to win much more than their fair share from the highway fund. Utah plays the patsy and states like Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and New Mexico rake in billions of extra dollars at our expense.

Why are Senators Hatch and Bennett proud? They say that $1.8 billion for Utah is the most we have ever received. But every state always gets the most it has ever received because of inflation and population increases.

Senator Hatch is facing a tough reelection race against brilliant technology millionaire Pete Ashdown and energetic state Rep. Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) so he needs to claim that he wins money for Utah. After serving as Utah’s representative on the conference committee that wrote the final bill, Hatch is vulnerable and he has to muddy the waters over his performance. Bennett is also involved in this debacle since he is Utah’s only representative on the Appropriations Committee and he probably doesn’t want to take full responsibility himself.

Our representatives need to take some blame, too.

Rep. Bishop (R-UT) sits on the House Rules Committee that could have rewritten bad legislation before it came to the floor. Rules committee members are hand-picked to be limp, docile and obedient to House leadership and seldom rewrite anything for their states’ benefit.

Reps. Cannon (R-UT) and Matheson (D-UT) couldn’t do much. Rep. Matheson sits on the Transportation Committee, but that committee has no influence over spending; with seniority he may be able to move to the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee where he could help us out of this mess. (Matheson’s ascension to a better committee is less likely now since he broke ranks over CAFTA.)

Update: Matheson’s Transportation Committee does write this bill. It’s the annual implementing bills (with more spending) that run through the Transporation Appropriations Subcomittee.

Let’s consider how much money Utah deserves as our fair share. There are several ways of measuring a fair share so I’ll consider all of the reasonable methods and we will see how many of them embarrass Hatch and Bennett and how much.

First, Utah sends 5 Senators and Congressmen to Washington. If they all divided up the money evenly, how much would Utah get?

Congressmen And Senators
Utah USA Percentage Utah’s Transportation Money
5
535
0.93%
$2.7 Billion

That’s a lot more than the $1.8 billion Hatch and Bennett are so proud of.Second, what if we divided the money by population?

Population 2004 Census figures
Utah USA Percentage Utah’s Transportation Money
2.4 million 293 million
0.82%
$2.3 Billion

That’s still a lot more than the $1.8 billion Hatch and Bennett are so proud of.Third, federal transportation money is supposed to fund new construction and not ongoing costs. What if we divided the money by population growth and thus need for new facilities construction?

Population Growth 2004 Census figures
Utah USA Percentage Utah’s Transportation Money
156,000 12.2 million
1.3%
$3.7 Billion

This time, that’s almost double the $1.8 billion Hatch and Bennett are so proud of.Fourth, what if states received money back in proportion to taxes paid into the Highway Trust Fund?

Highway Trust Fund Taxes
Utah USA Percentage Utah’s Transportation Money
$249 million $29 billion
0.86%
$2.5 Billion

Still lots more than the $1.8 billion Hatch and Bennett are so proud of. We are shortchanged by the work of Senators Hatch and Bennett on four out of four measures of fairness. In election years we hear a lot about seniority in Congress. As Senator Hatch says, what good is seniority if the senator isn’t working hard for your best interests?

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One Response to Utah Shortchanged In Transportation Funding

  1. Tom says:

    It’s my understanding roads are often considered in terms of “lane feet” (or “lane miles”). Using “lane miles” of federal highway as a standard of fairness, how does Utah do?

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