Government Affairs Update
February 11, 2022

We’re more than halfway through the 2022 General Legislative Session, with four weeks down and three to go! I’ll share a few highlights from the week including where some key appropriations stand, legislation to keep your eyes on, and a federal update including some highlights from WFRC’s trip to Washington DC and information about the federal infrastructure bill and transportation funding in Utah.

State Legislative Update

Appropriations subcommittees finished their work this week as they prioritized the hundreds of funding requests submitted for consideration. Those prioritized lists are now in the hands of the Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC), where they will receive final prioritization and a determination of funding. EAC will meet over the coming weeks as they finalize revenue estimates, and determine which items warrant appropriation. These estimates are anticipated near the end of February, and determine the final funding available for appropriation.

Here is how WFRC funding priorities fared during subcommittee prioritization:

  • $46 million for regionally significant active transportation projects ranked 22 of 79 one-time funding requests in the Infrastructure and General Government (IGG) appropriations subcommittee. This ranked relatively well, but in order to help get this across the finish line, please sign on to our Active Transportation Funding Letter!
  • $232 million to replace previously authorized FrontRunner bonds was funded in the IGG base budget, and signed into law by the Governor. This WFRC priority will now allow the Transit Transportation Investment Fund (TTIF) to be freed up – rather than being obligated to debt service – for other transit projects throughout the state. 
  • $1.65 million ongoing funding for technical planning assistance was ultimately reduced to $1 million by the Executive Office and Criminal Justice (EOCJ) appropriations subcommittee, ranking 31 of 56 one-time and ongoing requests. This funding, which would go to the State’s seven Associations of Governments and to UDOT would help aid our local governments as they are challenged to meet the increasing demands of planning for growth, transportation, housing, and economic opportunity. This item was earlier endorsed by the Utah Economic Opportunity Commission (UEOC).
  • $1 million one-time to fund a statewide conversation on growth was also reduced by the EOCJ appropriations subcommittee to $500,000 and ranked 37 of 56 one-time and ongoing requests. The conversation can help residents statewide understand the implications of the various ways that growth might unfold, and the importance of planning today for tomorrow. This item was also endorsed by the UEOC.  

WFRC will continue to work with our partners to advance these appropriations as EAC considers them, as well as additional funding for multi-modal transportation investments, including funding to advance roadway, transit, and active transportation projects as prioritized in Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan. As information about a transportation funding package emerges, we will keep you apprised. 

Legislation You Should Know About
  • Station Area Plans (TBD). In our WFRC legislative briefing this Thursday, WFRC Chairman Mayor Jeff Silvestrini and Cameron Diehl from the Utah League of Cities and Towns shared info about the discussions regarding potential station area plan legislation. WFRC, MAG, the League, and UTA have been working closely with Representative Steve Waldrip in crafting a legislative approach that avoids zoning mandates for municipalities, but allows for maximizing the development potential in appropriate areas, through a collaborative process. The approach would allow cities, with the support of MPOs and UTA, to create plans around their transit station areas and would allow cities to determine how to meet shared objectives, but would not direct the specific approach or zoning. This is designed to help Utah and our region address pressing challenges of being the fastest-growing state in the nation, while preserving the ability of local communities to determine the best way to meet the objectives within their local context. 

  • HB 322, Public Transit Capital Development Modifications by Representative Kay Christofferson would (1) Transfer oversight of transit capital development projects for which the State of Utah has financial participation to UDOT, and (2) Require increased coordination between UDOT and UTA in the development of these projects and how state funds are expended. UTA will continue to manage all other transit projects, as well as fully operate and maintain the system. At WFRC, we know that as the state’s population continues to grow, we must make strategic investments in multimodal transportation. As the State of Utah is starting to make significant investments in transit, the State has a reasonable desire for oversight and engagement in the capital development process. We are fortunate in Utah that we have both a DOT and Transit Authority that are willing to work together. We know that our partners at UDOT and UTA will closely collaborate on any projects to ensure seamless project delivery and enhancement of our transit system. 

WFRC Bill Tracker
As a reminder, you can stay up to speed on the legislation that has either a direct or indirect impact to the work of WFRC and its partners with our WFRC 2022 Bill Tracker which is updated regularly. The tracker shares brief summaries, bill status, and recommended positions of “support”, “oppose”, or “neutral”. If you have any questions about the bills or the recommendations included, please feel free to contact me.

You can also find the Utah League of Cities and Towns bill tracker HERE, and the Utah Association of Counties bill tracker HERE

Federal Update

WFRC Meets with Congressional Delegation
This week, WFRC leadership met with all of Utah’s congressional delegation members to discuss the opportunities in the federal infrastructure law, including discretionary grant programs for which Utah can compete for funds. Additionally, the group was able to share with our Congressmen and Senators the importance of passing a federal FY22 budget, and the negative impact continuing budget resolutions have on the implementation of the federal infrastructure bill (see more on this below). 

We appreciate our delegation members for taking the time to meet with us and their leadership and collaboration with us for the benefit of Utah’s residents. We look forward to working with each of them and their offices closely over the weeks, months, and years ahead as we implement the infrastructure law and continue to ensure Utah’s quality of life remains high for years to come.
WFRC with Senator Mitt Romney

WFRC with Senator Mike Lee

WFRC with Congressman Burgess Owens & Congressman Chris Stewart
WFRC with Congressman
Blake Moore
WFRC with Congressman
John Curtis

National Association of Regional Councils Conference of Regions
While in Washington, WFRC leadership also attended the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) Conference of Regions. At the conference, the group heard from various industry experts about implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and how communities can best take advantage of the opportunities available. 

Notably, WFRC Director Andrew Gruber was able to share at the Conference the work WFRC is doing with our NARC partners across the country to analyze the IIJA, and provide recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation about implementation of the bill, including writing the rules and regulations. 
Andrew Gruber addressing a session at NARC conference

Congress Reaches Topline Funding Deal
While meeting with the delegation, we learned that Congress had struck a broad government funding deal which now has the potential for a final deal to fund the federal fiscal year 22 budget, which is currently operating under a series of continuing resolutions. This is notable for WFRC, our transportation partners, and for Utah as some of the increases in formula programs included in the federal infrastructure bill are subject to congressional appropriation. Without an actual FY22 budget adoption, the funding increases from the infrastructure law will not be implemented, and the budget will remain flat with last year’s levels. Many of the increases to existing formula programs in the infrastructure bill are largely used to offset inflationary increases, and without the realized increases, entities will continue to operate under flat funding, impacting our ability to address historic inflationary pressures.

However, until a final deal is reached, the U.S. House of Representatives passed another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through March 11, 2022. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer stated that he expects the Senate to approve the CR before funding for the federal government expires on February 18, 2022.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you happen to have any questions, and have a healthy and restful weekend.

Miranda Jones Cox