Christmas isn't here yet, but lawmakers are already looking to put million-dollar presents under their constituents' Christmas tree.
Gov. Norm Bangerter announced Wednesday his intentions to seek a $50 million general obligation bond for buildings and highways. And now the Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Interim Committee has approved a bill that would add another $50 million to the bonding package for water projects.Most lawmakers agree the Legislature will never approve a $100 million bonding package. So something will have to go.
"This package will have to compete with the other projects on the governor's list," said Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Murray, the bill's sponsor.
The committee, which is co-chaired by Finlinson, put it's stamp of approval on a bill calling for $50 million in bonds for state and local water projects. Some $20 million would be given to the Division of Water Resources for low-interest loans for water and irrigation projects, $15 million would be spent on culinary water projects and $15 million on sanitation projects.
Most of the money would be part of a revolving loan program in which governments that borrow the money would repay it over time so it could be loaned to other entities for additional water projects.
Currently, the Division of Water Resources has applications for $300 million in water projects. It has $6 million a year available to loan in its revolving account.
While expressing concerns over using bonds to finance the water projects, lawmakers were unanimous in contending the state faces a crisis situation in terms of culinary water and sanitation. Statewide, the needs total hundreds of millions of dollars, while only a few million dollars a year is available for new water projects.
This isn't the first time the state has bonded for water projects. The Legislature passed a $50 million bond for water projects in 1983 and other bonding projects before that.