Roads, water, sewer, police and fire protection are basic needs that our local governments are set up to provide for our society. We enjoy a quality of life in Utah and in America that is one of the highest in the world. To continue in the future to have good roads, clean water, efficient sewer service and excellent police and fire protection, it is imperative we invest, reinvest and maintain what we have built and set up. This requires forward thinking, planning and a provision for funding.
Lindsay Lewis stated in an editorial printed in the Deseret News on March 11, 2015, “Over the past several years, Utah and states across the nation have faced budget crises. Our elected officials have been forced to make massive cuts to vital services like education, police and first responders. Our roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure continue to age, while upgrades and repairs are put on hold because local governments simply can’t afford these projects.”
Later she continued the thought, stating “… our public infrastructure is crumbling. … The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the state’s schools require $1.9 billion for infrastructure; and the state’s drinking water and wastewater facilities will require $6.6 billion over the next two decades.”
Recently the Utah Legislature addressed the funding needed for new roads by way of the passage of H.B. 362. This took a lot of effort by both bodies of the Legislature. When signed into law, H.B. 362 will provide for a switch in the way gasoline is taxed. Effective January 1, 2016, the current unit tax of $0.245 per gallon will be changed to a sales-tax system of 12 percent of the statewide average rack price of fuel, also allowing the opportunity for a local-option sales tax. This legislation is important. The motor fuel tax has not been raised since 1997 and nearly one third of the buying powervalue of the dollars generated have been lost due to inflation. Our state population has grown by nearly 43 percent from 2.1 million in 1997 to a projected 3 million citizens by the end of 2015.
So while the population has put increased demands on our state and local roads, our motor fuel tax has remained the same, losing much of its needed purchasing power. I applaud the legislators who voted to provide needed funding to repair and maintain our roads. Cities and counties will be entitled to a percent of this new additional funding. Our local roads require a constant need of maintenance and repair, and this will allow for it.
Likewise, it is important we maintain our aging water pipelines. As our cities have grown, so have the demands on wastewater plants, water treatment plants, water tanks, storm water systems and pipelines.
For the future, it is important now to plan ahead, to make provisions for, and to move forward with maintaining and upgrading our infrastructure. For every dollar we reinvest now it will save four to six dollars of replacement costs later.
Our roads wear out, our pipelines wear out, our police cars wear out and our fire engines wear out. That is all part of our daily living. Just as most houses need to have their roofs updated every 25 to 30 years, so do the cities’ infrastructure assets require repair, maintenance and updating.
For the future of our residents, our families, our friends and our city, I would hope that we may all work together to keep our basic infrastructure up-to-date, in good repair and be able to meet the demands of the future.