Lawmaker expects budget shortfall to challenge 2009 Utah Legislature
District 27 Rep. Patrick Painter sees the economic downturn as a possible advantage to the state of Utah.
District 27 covers the western portion of Carbon County.
"Sometimes you have to think to the contrary to gain opportunity," said Painter in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "Things may be a lot tougher this year in a lot of ways, but Utah may be able to come out of this looking very smart if we play our cards right."
The representative, who lives in Mona near Nephi, owns Painter Motors and has watched car dealers across the country drop like flies.
He pointed out that he is lucky because his company is in good finanacial shape and is not upside down like a lot of dealerships.
The representative views the state of Utah in the same way.
"We have taken care of our budgets and our bills over the years," said Painter, referring to the 2009 Utah Legislature, which goes into general session next week for 45 days.
"Utah still has a AAA bond rating, which puts us in a good position. Only nine states still have that rating after what has been happening. And many are in bad shape budget wise. Look at California. Their budget deficit is many times larger than our entire budget," continued the representative.
The situation gives Utah an advantage, according to Painter.
Even with less revenue coming in, the state could bond for road projects that have been cancelled or proposed and get such low interest rates that it might be worth looking at the possibility.
"The costs to build are inexpensive right now," said Painter, referring to the fact that many contractors are not busy and are looking for work. "If through the fiscal analysts reports we can see that we have the money to pay bond payments now may be the time to look at projects rather than just not do them
Bonds could be the answer to that and at the end of this recession Utah would look pretty good for doing that."
Painter is concerned about what will happen with many state agencies as budgets are slashed.
He is particularly concerned with the College of Eastern Utah and the school's possible large cuts.
In 2009 session of the Utah Legislature, Painter has five bills he is sponsoring or supporting.
All of the proposals have to do with water, water rights and water provider entities.
House Bill 68 is proposed legislation that would limit the rights of municipalities and counties to exact water rights.
HB-18 would change deadlines for applying for a water right with the state water engineer.
HB-85 would prevent lawsuits from affecting water supplies until complaints can be formally settled.
If a line breaks and a court awards damages to the plaintiff, the operator will have time to find a way to pay for the damages rather than have a water right attached by the court.
Painter is also involved in House Joint Resolution 6 which would extend tax exemptions to small private water companies that serve populations.
Presently, operations like the Price River Water Improvement District, a government entity gathering taxes for its operations, does not have to pay any other governmental taxes. But a small private water company doing the same thing would have to pay governmental taxes.
The joint resolution would alleviate the current problem.
Painter is also the Utah House of Representatives sponsor on Senate Bill 29.
The legislative proposal would amend the state's drinking water act to require water companies to get a majority of votes from stockholders in order to remove or add fluoride to water.