Gov. Norm Bangerter turned into a lobbyist briefly last week, asking Utah's members of Congress for help on federal legislation affecting everything from highway funds to Medicaid.
He told the delegation in his lobbying session, "The scripture says, `Ask and you shall receive' - right?""Not here," joked Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
Bangerter, who was in Washington to attend meetings of the National Governors Association, said upcoming legislation important to the state includes:
- Preventing proposed reworking of federal highway funding formulas that would hurt Utah and help large states. Bangerter said Utah used to receive $1.80 in federal highway funds for every $1 it invested. Now the ratio is almost one-to-one, with the state investing $105.7 million to receive $113 million.
Proposed changes may make that worse. He also said anomalies in formulas allowed Idaho to invest only $62.8 million in state funds to receive $160 million in federal money. "I wonder why that is," Bangerter said.
"Idaho has a Democratic delegation - at least in the House," joked Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah. Bangerter looked at him and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and said, "We'll let you guys take care of it then. We expect $180 million next year."
- Opposing proposed changes to formulas on how the states and the federal government split money from mineral leases. Changes could cost Utah an estimated $4.5 million this year.
- Pushing to increase the debt limits needed to complete the Central Utah Project, which almost passed last year. Owens said lack of that new debt limit probably cost the CUP $14 million in construction and environmental money in the president's new budget.
Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, a key member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the delegation should be able to get much of that money restored in the appropriations process.
- Continuing federal funding for conversion of U.S. 89 in Davis and Weber counties into a freeway. The state is seeking $10 million in fiscal 1992 from federal funds to help with the project that is expected to cost $80 million.
- Allowing states more flexibility in administering health and human services programs funded in part by the federal government. Bangerter complained costs to prove compliance drain too much money away from providing services.
- Opposing proposed additional Medicaid mandates without federal funds to fully finance them.
- Supporting legislation that would allow states to charge differential disposal fees for wastes generated outside the state.
- Seeking continued funding to help the state develop emergency plans in case of an accident at a new plant designed to destroy aging chemical arms at Tooele Army Depot.
- Seeking funding for Utah through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. It offered $15 to states in 1991, but none went to Utah. Bangerter said the states is seeking $150,000 in 1992 to help with geological surveys and seismic studies.
- Seeking no more than 1.4 million acres of wilderness on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in Utah. Republicans and the state Legislature endorse that position, but Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is seeking more than 5 million acres of wilderness.
"I guess you will be the key player," Bangerter told Owens. "The main obstructionist player," complained Hansen, who is championing the Republicans' bill. Owens simply smiled, and said he thanked the state Legislature for its advisory suggestions.