For just over $156 million, three state universities will be getting new buildings and five Utah cities will likely be getting new or improved liquor stores.
HB5, the annual revenue bonding bill which pops up during the final days of nearly every legislative session and often catches at least some legislators off-guard because of its size or the authorized projects was unveiled Monday. Included in it are projects such as a new wing for the Huntsman Cancer Institute, a new Shakespearean theater at Southern Utah University, a new parking structure at the University of Utah, and a new early childhood research center at Utah State University.
Four new liquor stores will also be built, with two in Utah County, one in either Heber City or Midway and one in Washington County. The existing liquor store in Cedar City will be upgraded and expanded.
While the bonding authorizations mean that the buildings will become reality, not everyone was thrilled. Utah Shakespearean Festival founder Fred Adams had high hopes that the Tony Award-winning festival would receive $5 million in state funding this year, instead of having to bond for the new theater and pay their debts from future donations and ticket sales.
The money would have supplemented private donations that are pledged for the construction of the $32 million theater.
"At the last minute, the $5 million was stripped from us," Adams said on Monday. "We're not going to get a dime of state money."
The Shakespeare Festival's outdoor wood theater structure, built in 1981, has deteriorated to the point that it must be replaced within the next few years, Adams said. A new theater, complete with a retractable roof and rehearsal halls, would allow the festival to produce shows year round.
On the other hand, others receiving bonding authorizations were thrilled. Mary Beckerle, executive director for Huntsman Cancer Institute, said that they were very excited for the $90 million bond for a new wing.
"This is an exciting opportunity to further integrate our outstanding cancer research and clinical care," she said in a news release.
According to information given to legislators, the expansion will add 117,000 square feet just north of the existing hospital. It will house new operating rooms, expanded outpatient clinics, 50 new hospital patient rooms, 25 new exam rooms and room for three new, high-tech, cancer detection machines.
Currently, HCH has to place some patients on waiting lists or require them to go to other cancer centers because the center had reached capacity, the information sheet said.
The addition will allow 70,000 more ambulatory patient visits per year.
Because of the name attached to the hospital Huntsman the bonding bill will present a conflict for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who in the early 2000s was the chairman of the nonprofit fundraising entity for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and for the hospital. HCI is the main philanthropic entity of billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. and his family.
The Huntsman family, which made its money in a petro-chemical empire that stretched across the world, has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various charities, with the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars more. The family sold the chemical business a year ago.
Gov. Huntsman has previously told the Deseret Morning News that when issues involving the state and the cancer hospital and institute arise, he would excuse himself.
But he can't do that here. As governor, Huntsman must either sign a bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature. So he must take some action on HB5, which, Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, said comes at the request from the U., not from the Huntsman administration.
Lisa Roskelley, spokeswoman for the governor, said he has allowed the new addition to work through the legislative process.
"This building has gone through the same process as any other building," she said.
No state tax dollars will go for the new hospital, said Garn, co-chairman of the Legislature's building committee. The revenue bonds will be paid back with fees generated from the facility and donations.Likewise, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, the Senate budget chairman, said that none of the bonds will require state money, or "count against the state's bonding cap." The bonds are paid with things such as student fees, liquor taxes or donations.