SALT LAKE CITY -- A local lawmaker continues to oppose spending another nickel on the embattled Utah Science Technology and Research Institute, unless it is shifted to a different level of review.
Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, voted Tuesday against a base budget bill, SB 4, which provides continued funding for USTAR as well as other economic development programs.
He said he supported everything in the bill but the USTAR funding. He continued to maintain the group will never meet its expectations to grow jobs significantly in the Beehive State. He also suggested USTAR's satellite offices have become public relations centers, aimed at lobbying the Legislature.
"USTAR has been in existence of nine years and they have not met their performance outcomes and frankly it is my belief, they won't. They don't have the skill set to make that happen," Reid said. He said the tens of thousands of jobs they were supposed to bring to the state, because of high-tech research teams, will never materialize.
Reid said he would support moving USTAR from review by the economic development to a higher-education committee. He said that would allow the initiative to be judged purely on their research effort, not whether or not their venture created an economic benefit.
"I can no longer vote for hundreds of millions of dollars given to USTAR without the level of performance they committed to," Reid said.
The budget bill passed easily anyway, by a 26-1 vote.
Legislators are expected to increase their scrutiny of how the organization is run. Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, said he is running legislation that will increase legislative oversight of how the group is performing.
USTAR was initiated in 2005 with the goal of bringing research teams to Utah to create technology-related companies as a spinoff, with the promise of bringing high-paying jobs as part of the initiative.
An audit of the organization, released in October, showed the group had overstated its successes. Following the audit, Gov. Gary Herbert appointed former Lt. Gov. Greg Bell to head the board.
Bell has vowed to right the group's ship and USTAR has employed a private auditing firm to take an independent look at the group's numbers and practices.
Even with nine years of state funding, totaling more than $300 million, Bell maintains every dollar has been accounted for and there have been no misappropriations.