At the celebration of the opening of UTA’s new Draper TRAX line, Utah’s mainstream politicians risked breaking their arms as they enthusiastically patted themselves and their colleagues on the back for doing such a wonderful job.
A closer look at the Salt Lake Tribune’s report on the festivities plus a few excerpts from earlier Tribune articles helps clarify what the politicians were actually praising—accepting hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds from the federal government, running up huge debts, gutting bus services and setting the stage for higher taxes.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a self-proclaimed opponent of tax increases and federal intervention, reportedly said that finishing the projects early and under budget “is the Utah way.” If that is the case, the Utah way includes state tax increases and reliance on funds taken by the federal government from taxpayers around the nation or borrowed from China and then transferred to Utah. As the Tribune notes:
Voters in 2006 approved issuing bonds and raising sales tax to accelerate the projects to be completed in 2015 instead of the once-planned 2030.
[U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx “noted the projects were built with the help of $545 million in federal grants, including $116 million for the Draper extension, and is an example of local, state and federal officials working together.”
Senator Orrin Hatch was reported to have said that the rail line is an example of how “in Utah, we live within our means.” Apparently his definition of living within our means includes running up huge debt and putting the squeeze on small businesses since as the article notes:
State audits questioned if UTA could afford operating the new lines, and credit rating companies downgraded UTA’s bond rating because of its heavy debt. Also, questions arose just this week about whether UTA achieved some of its cost savings by skirting state laws to withhold too much money from contractors to ensure work was completed properly, and did not pay normally required interest on it.
Not to be outdone by the politicians, after gutting bus service in order to build TRAX lines, paying excessive salaries and bonuses, and sending a UTA lobbyist to Switzerland with legislators, UTA General Manager Michael Allegra was quoted by the Tribune as saying, “we are going to focus on the customer and customer service. We need to define and refine our bus systems and bus rapid transit systems in our future.” What he didn’t say was that, as previously reported by the Tribune, UTA is counting on the taxpayers to save it from all of its excesses.
The day after the Utah Transit Authority began seeking a 66 percent increase in its share of sales taxes, four top UTA officials — including the same person who asked legislators for that increase — jetted off to Switzerland to look at mountain transportation systems.
“What I heard is that future transportation projects would require an increase from 0.6 [cent tax per $1 in sales] to a full penny,” said Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City. “I said I wouldn’t vote for an increase until they cleaned up their act, and the presentation sounded like an increase to me.”
So, there you have it.
UTAh values: Reliance on taxpayer and borrowed funds redistributed by the federal government, running up huge debts, gutting bus services and counting on still more tax increases to salvage the system while the elites fly off to Switzerland and enjoy the perks of office.