$75 million fund would provide loans for projects of three Utah “authorities”

(KCPW News) A newly-unveiled bill to create a $75 million fund to issue loans for projects related to the Utah Inland Port Authority – and two other quasi-governmental entities – cleared a senate committee on Monday morning.

Layton Republican Sen. Jerry Stevenson’s SB243 would create a bank of funds to provide loans to cities, counties or others involved in the development of Inland Port projects, or projects related to the Point of the Mountain Authority and the Military Installation Development Authority.
 
The bill also creates a five-member committee to approve the loans. 

The Inland Port is a massive global trade hub planned for far western Salt Lake City. In 2019, lawmakers expanded the scope of the project to include a “hub-and-spoke” vision with satellite locations around the state. 

During Monday’s meeting of the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee, Sen. Stevenson said that the fund was especially concerned with those rural satellites.
 
“There are projects that are being looked at across the state of Utah that would have Inland Port implications and they would be eligible for these loans,” Stevenson said.

That was a sentiment echoed by Jack Hedge, executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority.
 
“Our goal with the use of this infrastructure bank is to use that to stimulate project development project growth in these rural areas,” Hedge said. 

Sen. Stevenson said that the loans given out by the fund would be “paid back to the taxpayer” over “20 or 30 years.” 

Various Utah residents expressed concern that the bill was being unveiled at the end of the session, without much time for public scrutiny.
 
“Why is this legislation, which comes with a $75 million appropriation being dropped on us at the last minute,” asked Deeda Seed with the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition.

“The consequence of this is that once again on a matter related to the proposed Inland Port and satellite ports the taxpaying public is being shut out of the conversation” she said. 

Others who spoke during the meeting expressed concerns about impacts from the legislation unrelated to the Inland Port.  

Tracy Taylor with the Wasatch Taxpayers Association, said residents of her county were especially interested in decision-making related to the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA). The development of the $2 billion Mayflower Mountain Resort near the Jordanelle Reservoir in Wasatch County is being overseen by MIDA. 

“This bill being brought to us at the 11th hour is not the way we should be working with the local citizens of Wasatch County,” Taylor said. 

That opposition notwithstanding, the bill passed the committee on a 6-1 vote, with Cottonwood Heights Democratic Sen. Kathleen Riebe offering the lone opposition.

The bill now heads to the full Utah Senate. The 2021 Utah legislative session ends Friday.