SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah legislators voted Friday to override a veto by Gov. Gary Herbert and allow the state to earmark a growing percentage of certain sales tax proceeds for transportation.
The Senate voted 21-3, and the House voted 50-18, on Friday to override Herbert's veto of Senate Bill 229, sponsored by Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
The bill, which takes effect July 1, 2012, takes up to 30 percent of the growth of certain sales tax money and puts it into a fund that can go toward transportation needs such as road maintenance, bridge repair, installing sound walls or building new roads.
It can also be used as a secondary rainy day fund for other entities if lawmakers choose.
Adams said he knew the House vote was going to be close, "but not that close."
The bill needed 50 votes from the House and 20 from the Senate to override the governor's veto.
Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, cast the last vote after a phone call from House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, which ended a 10- minute stalemate.
Majority Leader Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, said Clark had concerns about the bill and was not willing to vote for it until he had reassurances. Dee was the House sponsor of the bill.
One of those who voted against the bill was Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry.
He said his constituents told him they do not favor a bill that earmarks funds.
"They want legislators to have the flexibility to put the money where it needs to be put," Perry said.
Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, also voted against the override.
"I just didn't think it was good policy," he said. "Earmarking funds is never good policy."
Dee said he spent Thursday speaking with Herbert and plans to address any concerns the governor has about the bill, even if Dee has to sponsor bills next session.
Herbert is concerned about the cap and the formula, Dee said, but "we're willing to work with the governor."
After the votes had overridden his veto, Herbert said HB229 takes money away from education.
Herbert said he plans to create a budget in December after he receives further facts and figures.
"That is what the Legislature should do," he said. "Today, with this override, the big loser is education in Utah. (They) have been told, by the way, education and public safety will take a second chair to transportation. That is not the way the process should work."
Lawmakers should create a budget "unfettered, without earmarks and prioritization of preconceived notions," Herbert said.
The bill does several things, Adams said. It provides funds for transportation and eliminates or defers the need to increase the gas tax. It also will act as a rainy day fund.
Herbert said if lawmakers want to add more money to the rainy day fund, it's there to add to it. Lawmakers have the option of moving funds around to meet the needs of the state, he said.
In the past, legislators have used the transportation fund several times as a rainy day fund, including in 2010, when $113 million was used to build new buildings on higher education campuses, Adams said.
Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, said the bill will provide funds for those times when the state has needs that are greater than its revenues.