This Week in the Utah Business Report

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

In case you missed one or more of the Salt Lake Chamber’s Utah Business Reports on KSL NewsRadio, here is a recap of what we talked about this week.

For the full recorded reports from this week and weeks past, visit KSL NewsRadio online. Remember to tune in between 12:30 and 1 p.m. to KSL NewsRadio every week day on 102.7 FM or 1160 AM. If your business is doing something great, let us know and we may feature it on the Utah Business Report.

On January 9th a group of leading economists released a consensus economic forecast predicting positive performance in 2015. Job growth, income growth and unemployment are all expected to improve over the prior year as the Beehive State continues to outperform national economic conditions.

Utah stands out among a handful of states that are leading the nation in job growth. Employment growth in 2014 was at 3.0% in Utah, which is far above the 1.8% national average. Utah’s job growth is expected at 2.5% while the nation stays at 1.8%. Utah’s unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 3.6%.

These and other forecasts are included in the 2015 Economic Outlook released at the annual Utah Economic Review hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber. Gov. Gary Herbert and over 400 business leaders attended the forum and heard from a panel of leading economists who discussed the forecast.

For more details, see the full report at slchamber.com.

Have you attended Membership Orientation at the Salt Lake Chamber? Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. is the next one!

Membership Orientation is one of the best ways to grow your understanding of Chamber features and benefits. Join the Chamber team to discuss public policy, chamber networking events, branding opportunity and sponsorship.

Orientation will provide an opportunity to interact with department leads to ensure we are able to strategically assist with your plan of how to benefit from your Chamber membership.

We welcome anyone that that is interested in more information about the Chamber, both members and those that may be considering membership. Please, feel free to bring a guest or two and don’t forget to bring your business cards.

Improving energy efficiency is a great way to reduce operating expenses and enhance your profitability. The best way to get started is with a walk-through energy audit. It consists of an analysis of your utility bills and an inspection of your facility and mechanical systems.

Key things to consider include lighting systems and controls, the age and efficiency of heating and cooling systems and the level of insulation. The goal of the energy audit is to look at your facility as a whole and identify the best energy-saving opportunities.

Rocky Mountain Power’s wattsmart Business program can help you assess the energy efficiency opportunities at your facility and provide details on cash incentives for lighting system improvements, heating and cooling equipment and other upgrades. Learn more at wattsmart.com.

Utah has inherited spectacular natural resources and an unparalleled environment. Utah’s irreplaceable natural environment provides recreational opportunities that increase tourism and creates a one-of-a-kind quality of life.

The Chamber supports and partners with the Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, Office of Global Branding, Tourism and Film and other key partners to support and foster growth in the tourism sector of our economy. Utah’s environment is essential to maintaining our business climate and we must thoughtfully balance our environmental and economic interests.

Utah’s economy will achieve continued prosperity through responsible investments in our natural resources and environment.

Natural resources and environment are just a couple of the topics addressed in the 2015 Public Policy Guide released today. To learn about the Chamber’s policy positions go to slchamber.com.

Transportation impacts much more than getting from Point A to Point B. It also has a big impact on Utah’s air quality.

Air quality is top of mind in the winter, when temperature inversions trap emissions that form pollution. During winter inversions, pollution can rise to unhealthy levels. Poor air quality poses public health risks, economic consequences and decreases our quality of life.

Utah’s transportation agencies developed a plan for Utah’s future transportation needs. It’s called the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. Air quality is an important consideration in this plan. By addressing transportation needs, we can have a positive impact on air quality. Implementing the plan, along with vehicle fuel efficiency improvements, could reduce vehicle emissions 53 percent by 2040.

The Utah Transportation Coalition advocates for transportation investment to improve Utah’s air quality. We invite those who share our interests in Utah’s environment, economy and quality of life to learn how to keep Utah moving at UtahTransportation.org.

Natural Resources and Environment

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

The 2015 Public Policy Guide will be released prior to the upcoming legislative session; the policy team will release a series of weekly broad based policy topics that will be featured in the new guide.

The 2015 Public Policy Guide strives to obtain community prosperity through investment and will address Utah’s utilization of natural resources and environment.

Utah has inherited spectacular natural resources and environment that help support our growing economy. Utah’s irreplaceable natural environment provides recreational opportunities that increase tourism and quality of life, thus attracting new companies and employees to strengthen our economy. We will support and partner with the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Office of Global Branding, Tourism and Film and other key partners to support and foster growth in the tourism sector of our economy. Utah’s environment is essential to maintaining our business climate and supporting our community, therefore we must thoughtfully balance economic interests.

Utah has vast and diverse energy and mineral resources ensures access to reasonably priced energy, creates jobs, supports rural economic development and provides a solid foundation for broader economic strength. We support policies that encourage and facilitate appropriate energy and mineral production and that preserve and strengthen Utah’s competitive advantages.

Our air quality also has lasting implications on our state’s ability to retain and attract new businesses and employees. Utah must increase transportation funding and increase funding to expand public transit and active transit to decrease idling cars, increase public transit usage and clean our air. The Chamber has taken an active role by implementing several public education campaigns to increase public awareness throughwww.choices4cleanair.com and http://www.utahtransportation.org.

We support continued efforts in promoting water conservation, including reducing per-capita consumption by 25 percent by the year 2025 (as compared to the year 2000). We will strongly promote the best practices and innovation in water utilization for businesses.Utah’s economy will achieve prosperity through responsible investments in utilizing its natural resources and environment.

Additional information concerning the Chamber’s policy priorities and the release of the guide will be available in the upcoming weeks. The guide will be released on January 22.

Infrastructure and Transportation

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

The 2015 Public Policy Guide will be released prior to the upcoming legislative session; the policy team has released a series of weekly broad based policy topics that will be featured in the new guide.

The upcoming 2015 Public Policy Guide strives to obtain community prosperity through investment by focusing on infrastructure and transportation. As Utah’s population is expected to grow by 60% in the next thirty years, it is important to have a comprehensive transportation plan to ensure continual mobility and support our growing economy, as well as sustain a reliable water supply and energy infrastructure to support the anticipated growth in population and ensure future prosperity.

Utah needs to secure long-term transportation infrastructure funding to support the continual growth of our economy. Our transportation infrastructure has lasting implications on our ability to attract and retain business. It is important to strategically invest in transportation to preserve infrastructure, ensure optimal mobility and safety, and strengthen Utah’s economy.

Utah must ensure quality of life by developing a state water strategy to continue to meet our long-term water needs, protect our current water resources and make disciplined investments concerning future water infrastructure to preserve our economy and business growth.

Abundant, affordable energy contributes directly to our quality of life and the strength of our economy. Utah must expand and modernize its energy infrastructure to take full advantage of existing and new sources of energy and to prepare for Utah’s future growth.  Additional information concerning the Chamber’s policy priorities and the release of the guide will be available in the upcoming weeks. The guide will be released on January 22.

Transportation For America – Local Successes

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

 

Utah’s commitment to disciplined planning and investment was featured as a “can-do” region this month by Transportation For America, an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions — because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity.

While Utah’s success stories in economic development, transportation funding and quality of life are making their rounds around the nation – we still have significant work to be done, especially in transportation. The article highlight’s Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan as a national best practice and a comprehensive approach that provides for positive outcomes beyond transportation. A quality transportation system offers personal benefits to every Utahn, including more time with families, a cleaner environment and better health and Utah’s transportation system is the backbone of our economy. However, Utah’s current funding mechanisms won’t produce enough to cover all of Utah’s needed transportation projects.

The article “Local Successes” in Transportation for America highlights this point. One ongoing challenge for the Utah, specifically the Wasatch Front in particular is geography. How will a growing population maintain a good quality of life in a relatively thin sliver of land?

Utah is the sixth most urban state in the country, with 80 percent of the population residing along the Wasatch Front, a metropolitan region in the north-central part of the state that includes Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden. Bordered to the east by the Wasatch Mountain Range and to the west by the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake, the region provides limited space for its two million residents.

To compound the issues associated with limited space, the Wasatch Front’s population is expected to increase 60 percent by the year 2040, swelling to 3.5 million people.

Residents, planners, business leaders and their elected officials are asking the question: How to accommodate that growth while maintaining the region’s reputation as an economic powerhouse with world-class outdoor recreational opportunities?

Answers to that question began in 1987 with the founding of the Coalition for Utah’s Future. From that coalition grew Envision Utah, a nonprofit organization focused on growth issues around the state. In 1997, Envision Utah launched a two-year research effort focused on the growth along the Wasatch Front. That process engaged approximately 20,000 participants and resulted in the Quality Growth Strategy, a vision for the Wasatch Front that aimed to accommodate growth while conserving more land and water, limiting emissions associated with the region’s air quality challenges and providing more transportation and land use choices to meet market demand.

Along with almost unprecedented citizen participation in the region’s long-range planning efforts through Envision Utah, the region’s business community has also played a leadership role in advocating for additional transportation investment in local and state transportation needs.

“The number one issue ten years ago became the infrastructure,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We realized right up front from a business community [perspective], that if we let the infrastructure slip in our communities, we would absolutely commit economic suicide,” Beattie added. “It takes so much longer to build yourself out of a problem once you’re in, so we had to address it. The business community stepped up and said we want commuter rail, we want light rail, we want roads.”

David Golden, a banking executive with Wells Fargo and co-chair for Salt Lake Chamber’s transportation initiative the Utah Transportation Coalition, agrees.

“One thing I think we’ve proven is that an investment in transportation pays dividends for our economy and I think the citizens and leadership of our state generally understand that,” he said.

“From a business community perspective, we understand how important this investment is and how beneficial it is. We are a growing state with numerous demands, but I think overall, transportation is a proven winner in this state and one that people are on board with getting behind.”

Golden points to an economic analysis that found a $1.94 gain in gross domestic product for every $1 invested in the Unified Transportation Plan. “That’s a winner,” he said.

Through a lot of consensus-building and the cooperation of the public and private sectors on the Wasatch Front, the region’s leaders have laid the groundwork for economic prosperity for years to come. They’ve cultivated a heritage of leadership in the local business community. They’ve engaged thousands of citizens to think about what kind of place they want the Salt Lake City region to be decades down the road — and they’ve supported the vision with their tax dollars.

“We’ve still got more work to be done in investing for our future growth,” said Beattie. “The secret sauce that got us to this point will need a bit of seasoning to ensure we continue to invest prudently in our infrastructure and prosper as a region for years to come.”

See the full article here: bit.ly/1qasUam

 

Clear the Air Challenge Results—2014

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

In July, 6,876 Utahns from all over the state worked together to eliminate 2,249,613 miles and 143,353 vehicle trips during the 6th Annual Clear the Air Challenge. 2014 Challenge participants saved $782,946 and over 669.1 tons of CO2. We thank this year’s participants and we are thrilled about saving nearly 2.25 million miles- that is an impressive achievement. Way to go, Utah!

We are also excited to announce our top finishers!

Top Overall Teams:

1. Fidelity Investment

2. Utah Dept. of Workforce Services

3. U of U Facilities

4. Utah Department of Environmental Quality

5. Goldman Sachs

6. Department of Public Safety

7. Questar Corporation

8. DWS –Admin North

9.Overstock.com

10. SLCoHealth

11. UDOT

12. Utah DEQ: DAQ

13. L3 Communications

14. Salt Lake City Corporation

15. Department of Technology Services

 

Top Small Teams:

1. 90.9 KRCL

2. PPBH

3. KUER

4. Architectural Nexus

5. Salt Lake Chamber / Downtown Alliance

6. Wasatch Front Regional Council

7. VCBO Architecture

8. Impact Hub

9. The Buckner Company

10. 3form

11. MHTN Architects

12. FFKR Architects

13. Parleys 6th Ward

14. Dixon Neighbors

15. UCAIR

 

Top Individuals: Trips Saved

1.Soren Simonsen

2. Robert Ford aka Clean Air Bob

3. Rob Kent

4. Xavier White

5. Michelle Bell

 

Top Individuals: Miles Saved

1. Jennifer Gordon

2. Lynn Kunzler

3. John Strong

4. David Harding aka Dave of Dixon

5. Rachel Burningham

Congratulations to all of our winners for setting the bar high and showing that through individual action, we can all make a difference.

“Although the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge is over, our work continues,” said Jonathan Johnson, chairman of Overstock.com and chair of the Salt Lake Chamber’s clean air task force. “Integrate the behaviors learned from this Challenge into your life through the rest of the year.”

A big thank you goes to the sponsors of the Clear the Air Challenge for making it possible this year: UTA ,UCAIR , TravelWise, RioTinto, Enterprise CarShare, Penna Power Brian Hayes, Fidelity Investments, Overstock.com, Zions Bank and the Salt Lake Chamber. Thanks to the numerous sponsors who donated prizes for the Challenge as well: Kuhl, Probar, Ogden Made, Visit Salt Lake, Ramp Sports and many more.

As always, we encourage you to continue to consider ways you can drive down your driving trips throughout the entire year. Remember—every little bit counts, no matter what month it is. Keep tracking it all at cleartheairchallenge.org.

 

Public Policy – July Update

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

As the “Voice of Business” and Utah’s statewide Chamber, the Salt Lake Chamber leads out on critical issues that impact Utah businesses and our community. In the coming weeks, here is how we plan to “move the dial” to grow our economy, promote community prosperity and champion business in Utah, as well as ways for you to participate.

Public Policy

The Salt Lake Chamber has named Rich Walje, President and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power as Public Policy Chair starting July 1, 2014. The Policy Chair is an Executive Board member which guides the Chamber’s various public policy initiatives and acts as a liaison with the Executive Board on policy.

“The Salt Lake Chamber fills an essential role in our community as the voice of business on public policy issues. Apart from narrowly-focused industry associations, the Chamber gives a voice to broad-based business issues in the community and on the Hill,” said Walje.

Additionally, Chris Gamvroulas, President Ivory Development and Ivory Homes, was also named Vice Chair, Public Policy. Walje has set an aggressive agenda for the coming year for improving the chamber’s efforts in public policy and strengthening influence on key policy issues.

The Executive Board is the only policy body of the Salt Lake Chamber responsible for the Chamber’s commercial, industrial, public, legislative and financial policies. The Executive Board consists of members of the Board of Governors and the Downtown Alliance Board of Trustees. All of the Chamber’s extensive policy task forces and committees are advisory to the Executive Board through the Public Policy Chair.

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Clean Air

We all have a role in keeping our air clean. Businesses, citizens and government share our roads and breathe the same air. We should all do our part clean our air and the Clear the Air Challenge is perfect opportunity to show that you care about air quality! This statewide Challenge begins on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

1. Remember, it’s all about driving smarter and driving less. Find out how your company and employees can participate at www.cleartheairchallenge.org.

If you have any other questions, concerns or comments about the Clear the Air Challenge, feel free to reach out to Ben Hoyle at 801.328.5056 or bhoyle@slchamber.com.

Also – our next Clean Air Task Force meeting will be Wednesday, August 13, at 7:30-9:00 a.m. with the Chamber’s Natural Resources Business Council. For more information about the task force, please contact Ryan Evans at 801.328.5063 or revans@slchamber.com.

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Capitol Club

“The Salt Lake Chamber Capitol Club gives business professionals unrivaled access to Utah’s leaders,” said Dan Harbeke, director public affairs of Union Pacific Railroad. “If you are interested in an inside look to how policy in Utah works, I’d encourage you to join.”

The Capitol Club provides the opportunity to gain professional development in public policy, public affairs and  especially for those interested in the policy issues affecting Utah’s business community. The next Capitol Club event will be Monday, July 16, with the newly appointed executive director of the Utah Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), Ivy Estabrooke.

If you are interested in participating in Capitol Club contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Regulation

We advocate for simplified and reasonable regulation as well as predictable and certain laws, so rational people can be confident in deploying resources into a productive economy. To that end we are partnering with Sen. Lee, Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, and the Utah Association of Counties for the Utah Solutions Summit on Thursday, August 21, 2014 to discuss the vast and uncertain regulatory burden under which businesses are required to comply and develop solutions to move our economy forward.

We will have more information about the Solutions Summit, including sponsorship opportunities, in the coming days. If you have any other questions, concerns or comments, feel free to reach out to Justin Jones at 801.558-9371 or jjones@slchamber.com.

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Water

We invite you to join business and community leaders to discuss the importance of water infrastructure and the impact of water availability on our economy, business environment and economic development efforts, as well as how Utah businesses are making a difference with “Utah: Water is Your Business Week,” which will take place the week of August 4 – 8, 2014. This will include a number of items including the launch of Chamber’s Water Task Force.

We are looking for great stories about how your business is practicing water management and conservation. We invite you to join in sponsoring this great event. For more information and to share your company’s water stories, please contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Prosperity 2020

The Salt Lake Chamber has partnered with chambers of commerce and business associations from all over Utah in a movement called Prosperity 2020 to strengthen our economy by improving education. Prosperity 2020 is currently working towards an Education Forum later this fall as well as working closely with the Legislature’s Education Task Force. The next Prosperity 2020 Founders Council meeting is Monday, August 25 at 1:00-2:30 p.m.

To become involved in Prosperity 2020, please contact Jana Scott at 801-328-5043 or jscott@prosperity2020.com.

Additionally, the Prosperity 2020 Business Promise seeks to deploy 20,200 volunteers into Utah’s school system. If your business is interested in taking a more active role to support education, please contact Julie Johnsson at 801.328.5082 or jjohnsson@slchamber.com.

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Utah Transportation Coalition

On June 23, the Utah Transportation Coalition held the 2014 Open House with terrific presentations from UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras, Utah Transit Authority General Manager Michael Allegra, and House Transportation Committee Chair and Interim Transportation Committee Co-Chair Rep. Johnny Anderson. The event is just one of dozens the Utah Transportation Coalition hosts every year to promote continued investment in Utah’s transportation infrastructure. These events are reserved or significantly discounted for Coalition members and include an upcoming Mountain Transportation event that we will have more details on in the coming weeks.

The Coalition is currently looking for new members to collaborate with our partners to make smart and sustainable transportation choices and to secure adequate, stable and long-term funding to support a high quality of life and economic growth in Utah.

If your company is interested in participating, contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Natural Resources Business Council

Our Natural Resources Business Council (Council) is an inclusive approach to multiple sectors of Utah’s economy including the Chamber’s Water, Clean Air, Energy and Minerals, and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Task Forces. This past month the Council heard presentations on the nexus between transportation and the NRBC, as well as the possibility of developing a Chamber corporate sustainability report.

The next Council meeting will be on Wednesday, August 13 at 7:30-9:00 a.m. For more information, please contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

The Salt Lake Chamber held its first Outdoor Recreation and Tourism meeting on June 5 with an industry focus group to better understand the needs of this critical asset to Utah’s economy. The groups discussed challenges with regulation, coordination with our economic development partners and perceptual issues faced by Utah’s tourism industry. We want to thank all of our participants.

The Chamber will be working closely with the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, Office of Tourism Global Branding on a number of events in the coming months and establish an ongoing task force. If you would like to participate in future events, please contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Energy and Minerals

Utah’s rich and diverse energy sector is one key reason behind our state’s thriving economy and the third annual Utah Governor’s Energy Development Summit on June 3-4, 2014, honored that contribution by setting the stage for the sector to continue to power our state’s economy. The Salt Lake Chamber welcomed the opportunity to support the summit. Read more about the summit.

To build on the summit, the Energy and Minerals Task Force meeting on Wednesday, July 9 at 8:00 a.m. will receive a briefing on the Utah Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan from the Office of Energy Development and a presentation on clean energy technology start-ups. For more information, please contact Michael Merrill at 801-328.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Health System Reform

The Salt Lake Chamber in collaboration the Utah Hospital Association, American Cancer Association, AARP of Utah, Voices for Utah Children and Utah Health Policy Project sponsored a phone and email survey to better understand the public’s sentiment of the Governor’s “Healthy Utah Plan.”

A poll of 623 registered voters in May and June by Dan Jones & Associates found:

• 88 percent favor Herbert’s “Healthy Utah” plan over doing nothing.
• 70 percent prefer Herbert’s plan to a straightforward Medicaid expansion as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act.
• 59 percent say they support or strongly support Herbert’s plan.

The Health System Reform Task Force received a briefing on this polling data at our June 26 meeting and you can read about the results here.

The next Health System Reform task force will be Thursday, August 28, at 8:00 a.m. If you would like to participate in future Health System Reform events, please contact Justin Jones at 801.328.5071 or jjones@slchamber.com.

 

Downtown Alliance

Join the Downtown Alliance on Friday, July 11, for the 2014 State of Downtown, which celebrates our evolving urban center. Downtown is in the midst of a remarkable transformation with new residents, businesses and buildings shaping our urban fabric. This event will highlight these dramatic changes and forecast our future.

Also at the 2014 State of Downtown, the Downtown Alliance will be releasing the 2013 Economic Benchmark Report for downtown Salt Lake City, which presents facts about the downtown economy to stakeholders, property owners, tenants, investors, developers, retailers, brokers, theaters, museums, policy makers and civic leaders. You can read the 2012 report here.

If you would like to participate in future Downtown Alliance events, please contact Jesse Dean at 801-328.5045 or jesse@downtownslc.org.

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International – World Trade Center

Derek Miller, former chief of staff to Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert, has been named president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah, a licensed and certified member of the World Trade Centers Association, which is headquartered in New York City.

The World Trade Center Utah is strategic partner of the Salt Lake Chamber and you can read more about Derek’s appointment here.

On September 24, 2014, Utah will host the first of its kind Global Forum. Topics will include Building a Global Brand; Doing Business in Europe, Mexico, Canada, and China; Shared Stories of Success from Utah companies abroad; Financing Your Global Expansion; and Global Operational Efficiency Through Sound Legal, Tax and Accounting Practices.

If you’re thinking about exporting, looking to invest in one of the fastest growing economies in the United States or seeking inspiration to take your business to the next level, you won’t want to miss out. Visit wtcutah.com.

Op-Ed: Utah’s transportation budget struggles

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by Johnny Anderson  and was published on the Deseret News here. Anderson represents Utah’s House District 34 and chairs the Transportation Committee.

The April 16 article by Joan Lowy of The Associated Press titled, “The Transportation Blues,” describes the transportation funding woes of the federal government. The potential loss of or decline in federal transportation dollars will seriously impact Utah. I wanted readers to understand that impact as well as our current funding situation.

According to Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan, we are facing a shortfall of $11.3 billion over the next 25 years in our transportation infrastructure development and maintenance needs. Roughly one-third of that need is at the state level, another one-third at the local level and the remaining one-third is for transit. This is based on our projected population growth and development plans.

In order to limit this discussion to roads, let’s ignore transit funding leaving a $7.5 billion shortfall. Therefore we need approximately $300 million additional per year for the next 25 years to meet our road capacity and maintenance needs. UDOT’s budget for 2013 was just over $1.2 billion, so adding $300 million is a considerable amount. However, if we don’t begin to tackle this issue, then Utah’s transportation system, road congestion and air quality will get progressively worse.

Road maintenance is an important job of both UDOT and local governments. Despite how good our roads might be now, road maintenance is an area where we need to do much better. Local governments are having trouble affording maintenance costs. Most state roads receive appropriate, preventative maintenance but not all. We have thousands of miles of state rural roads that we cannot afford to proactively maintain. Although this is currently a budgetary necessity, it is a terrible strategy. A road is at least six times less expensive to proactively maintain than to just fill potholes. Well-maintained roads last longer and are safer.

Of the $300 million per year we need to meet our funding shortfall, about $67 million would bring all state roads into the proactively maintained category and would pay for all of the bridges and overpasses that need to be replaced. So, even if we didn’t come up with the $300 million we need to properly prepare for growth, we still need the $67 million per year for proper maintenance. The $300 million is very necessary, the $67 million is critical.

Now for the really scary part. Of UDOT’s 2013 budget of $1.2 billion, over $200 million is federal funds. If Congress does not act to restore solvency to the Transportation Trust Fund, we could see that $200 million quickly become less than $10 million in 2015. So our critical need of $67 million quickly jumps to over $250 million for that year.

This year’s Legislative Transportation Interim Committee will work on ideas to deal with our funding shortfall. There will be debate about increasing taxes and whether it is more appropriate to increase the gas tax, registration fees, sales tax or some of each. It will be a difficult task but it must be accomplished. The growth is coming and our infrastructure continues to age.

We can work together and demonstrate the courage and forethought needed to address the problem or we can end up in the same predicament that New Jersey is in. An April 16 New York Times article, “Ailing Pulaski Skyway Offers a Lesson in Creative Financing,”describes how Gov. Chris Christie had to stop a desperately needed congestion relief project and divert money to a failing 82-year-old bridge that is rusting away. We can pay a little now to stay ahead of the problem or pay a lot more later by refusing to act.

 

Key policies to reinvigorate our nation’s transportation program

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Building from conversations with business, civic and elected leaders in communities throughout the country, Transportation for America has developed a platform of seven broad policies to reboot the nation’s federal transportation program and put it—and the nation—on sound footing.

Salt Lake City and Utah continue to be highlighted as a leader in transportation investment and unrivaled partnerships. This document helps summarize these efforts and many others that highlight a path forward for transportation policy in Utah. You can down the document here and read more about Transportation for America at t4america.org.

Why does federal government have a role in transportation funding?

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Janet Kavinoky talks about the need for infrastructure investment. She is a national recognized expert in transportation policy, funding and finance.

Kavinoky developed and leads the Chamber’s Let’s Rebuild America (LRA) initiative to raise the profile of infrastructure issues, broaden stakeholder engagement, and create new opportunities for businesses to influence public policy.

Time to raise Utah’s motor fuel tax

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Editor’s note: This article was written by Natalie Gochnour, associate dean in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and chief economist for the Salt Lake Chamber. It was originally published on the Deseret News

Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.

This quip, made by Louisiana Sen. Russell Long, captures Utah’s approach to the motor fuel tax. We’ve been kicking the can down the road for 17 years. It’s time for a serious and informed discussion about raising Utah’s motor fuel tax to make up for lost purchasing power and improved fuel efficiency.

I’m not alone in this viewpoint. Several conservative legislators, like Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, and Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, have proposed changes to Utah’s gas tax this session. And with good reason. Unlike sales or income taxes, which increase with the price level, the motor fuel tax loses purchasing power over time because it is a per-gallon tax. In inflation-adjusted terms it’s dropped from 24.5 cents per gallon in 1997 (the last time it was raised) to 16.9 cents per gallon today, a 45 percent loss in buying power.

Making matters worse, passenger cars are becoming more fuel-efficient — a good thing except when it comes to paying for the impacts. For every gallon consumed, more wear and tear is placed on the roads. The average fuel efficiency of U.S. passenger cars has increased from 28.7 miles per gallon in 1997 to 35.6 today.

Bottom line: You have to periodically raise the motor fuel tax just to stay even. Staying even is not a tax increase.

And let’s be honest. We have to do a lot more than stay even. Utah’s population grows by approximately 50,000 people each year. Ninety-one percent of Utahns live in urban settings. We have urban problems like traffic congestion and air pollution. If we don’t take care of our road maintenance needs we increase our costs in the future. We must make mighty investments in transportation to support commerce and maintain our life quality.

The Utah Legislature understands this. They’ve invested substantially in Legacy Parkway, I-15 in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties and other projects throughout the state.

But it’s come at a cost.

We’ve borrowed huge sums of money increasing our net general obligation debt per capita from $434 just five years ago to $1,161 today. Today our debt ratio is second highest among Moody’s AAA-rated states. This year in the Transportation Investment Fund we will spend more money on debt service than on projects. We can’t borrow more and remain fiscally responsible.

We’ve also earmarked record amounts of sales tax to transportation projects. In 1997, the state earmarked less than $10 million of sales tax revenue. Today, we earmark over $450 million. We can’t earmark any more and adequately fund other needs.

That leaves us with four options: do without (not a good choice for the economy), take from other government services like education (ill-advised when investment is already low), raise general taxes (poor choice in an uncertain economy) or adjust the motor fuel tax to recover lost purchasing power.

Raising the motor fuel tax is by far the best option.

The motor fuel tax is a user fee. Unlike most government services, transportation is metered at every pump. It you drive more, you pay more. That’s fair. If you pay more, you are incentivized to use less — a good thing for congestion and air quality. Such is the magic of a user fee. It brings the power of market forces to the provision of government services.

Some will say the motor fuel tax is a dying revenue. I disagree. It’s only dying if the Legislature refuses to act. Some will say motor fuel taxes hurt low-income families. Let’s find other ways to help them. Some will say it’s an election year and the Legislature won’t entertain a tax increase. Maybe so, but when you kick the can down the road the pile gets bigger and bigger.

The Utah economy benefits from transportation infrastructure. We need to have the foresight to have users pay for it.

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