The state likely will help finance a new arena for the Utah Jazz, but Gov. Norm Bangerter said Thursday the project is not worth a tax increase.
Bangerter, speaking at his monthly KUED-TV news conference, said he hopes the Legislature will vote on the state's participation before its session ends in February. However, he declined to say how much the state may pay."I've asked for detailed data on what costs will be expected," he said. Bangerter met Wednesday afternoon with members of a task force planning the arena, which will likely seat about 18,200 people.
The task force estimates the arena will cost about $70 million. The Jazz have offered to pay half that. Bangerter said the city and county also should help.
The arena is needed because the Salt Palace, with its 12,444 seats, now has the smallest seating capacity in the National Basketball Association, and Jazz officials worry about earning enough money to keep pace with rising pro-basketball salaries.
"The Jazz are an asset to the community," Bangerter said. "We want a new arena, but we don't want tax increases."
The state's economy and the Legislature dominated most of the news conference. Among other things, the governor said:
-He is flying to Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday to woo "a significant number of new jobs."
Sources said the trip may result in a new Holiday Inn hotel reservation center in Utah.
-The Legislature should bond for $50 million regardless of how much money is available. The bonds are needed to pay for new highways and for water projects. Some legislators believe the state should reduce its debt and try to pay cash for those projects.
"Any cash you can get to put in those programs I'll support," he said. "But put it in in addition to the $50 million bond.
"I don't want to end my term saying we don't have any debt but we don't have any roads and we don't have any water, either."
-Lawmakers should "keep their cool" when it comes to abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court may modify its stance on legal abortions later this year, but it would be premature for the Legislature to start writing laws outlawing abortion before that decision is handed down.
"I believe we have too much abortion," Bangerter said. "But the worst thing we could do is start speculating about that" court decision.
-He believes a lottery bill is unlikely to pass the Legislature this year. For a lottery to be made legal, the state's Constitution would have to be changed. Bangerter acknowledged that some opinion polls show people favor a state lottery, but he said those same people keep electing state legislators who oppose lotteries.
"If the people want, they can go through the initiative process and write a bill," he said. "The bill would be unconstitutional, but that would send a clear message."