layton officials push 2014 state legislative agenda

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:21 AM

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

LAYTON — City leaders have made it clear to local lawmakers they have a legislative wish list this Christmas.

That list includes state help in addressing some local transportation issues, public safety issues and potentially voting in support of a bill that would allow local counties and communities to raise the gas tax by 3 percent.

Five members of the state Legislature from Davis County met with members of the city council, both incoming and outgoing, and with city staff on Monday morning to review issues of concern, which they hope will be addressed in the 2014 session of the Legislature, which convenes Jan. 27.

City Attorney Gary Crane led a briefing of just over an hour with state Sens. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, and Stuart Adams, R-Layton, and Reps. Steve Handy, R-Layton, Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, and Stuart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights.

Crane, who is heavily involved on issues on the Hill through his role with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, outlined an agenda of eight issues that included transportation, state mandates, the potential of connectivity to fiber throughout the Beehive state, and public safety issues.

Crane said the city’s biggest priority is addressing improved transportation access to the city’s malls off Hill Field Road and Antelope Drive. He said access to the city’s retail centers at the mall means a lot in how the city is able to maintain its sales tax revenue base.

“It truly affects our business down there. Much of our tax revenues are generated by the mall area. We’re looking for solutions and we also believe it will take some additional dollars,” Crane said.

Adams, who has been involved in transportation issues on the Hill, urged the city to team with its neighbors in presenting a unified front on transportation requests.

“In order to get it done, we’re not going to help someone across the street who doesn’t want to go. When you look at congestion around the mall, if you want it solved, we need to hear about it,” Adams said.

Another key point initiated by Crane with local lawmakers is consideration of a potential local option gas tax. He said local municipalities simply don’t have the funding to repair, maintain and rebuild local roads. He said a local option, proposed by the ULCT, of raising the gas tax 3 percent would generate more revenue to be used on local roads.

“The bottom line is something needs to happen,” Crane said.

Handy said it unlikely a gas tax will pass the Legislature, while Wilson also hedged his bets on the issue.

“This is a tricky issue for the state, especially in a year like we have now where there is no new money,” Wilson said. He said any additional revenue projected for 2015 has already been eaten up in funding growth in education and a proposed raise for state workers.

Other concerns aired during the meeting included:

— State mandates and how communities can fund them. Of particular concern to city officials are mandates being enacted in courts, which require e-filings for all citations to be enacted by January of 2015. The mandates do not come with additional funding, leaving municipalities with the task of coming up with money to make the changes, according to Steve Garside, assistant city attorney.

— Funding from the state’s LeRay McAllister Fund for local trails. Crane said the fund has a provision dedicated to preserving open space, which potentially needs to be addressed. He also talked about the potential of the city to use eminent domain to gain access to some small parcels of land in developing trails.

— The potential to develop connectivity throughout the state, utilizing fiber for telecom needs for educators, business and communities. Crane said there is a lot of dark fiber under Utah roads (fiber not in use) and he and Sen. Howard Stephenson, a longtime critic of UTOPIA, have talked about means to potentially develop connectivity through the Beehive state. He said access to high-speed telecommunications impacts economic development and education.

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