$1 billion transportation infrastructure bill could change Utah’s roads and public transportation


The spending plan could be made potential by tens of millions in federal funding from the American Rescue Plans Act.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner prepare operator prepares to depart the station in Ogden on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

As time runs out on the 2022 common session, Utah lawmakers are working behind the scenes to craft an enormous transit infrastructure invoice that could possibly be value as a lot as $1 billion.

The issue is determining tips on how to pay for it.

Transportation spending, primarily specializing in street building and public transit, is feasible due to federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) handed by Congress.

Utah obtained roughly $1.5 billion in federal cash by means of ARPA, however there are restrictions on how it may be spent. The thought: discover locations the place ARPA funds can exchange present income within the common fund, which then frees up cash for the transit invoice.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, explains it’s not so simple as simply plugging the cash into the funds.

“We can’t use all these ARPA funds for no matter we wish. That’s why we’ve put it into water tasks and different issues,” Stevenson mentioned.

That capability to unencumber money for infrastructure wants with out pulling from one other pot of cash is a singular alternative. There may be not sufficient extra cash within the common fund to cowl the scope of the tasks lawmakers are hoping to incorporate within the invoice with out the federal cash.

“We’ll by no means be capable to do that a lot once more,” mentioned a legislative supply with data of the infrastructure discussions, however who was not approved to remark.

The enhance in funding will go a protracted technique to addressing Utah’s transportation wants, however it nonetheless isn’t sufficient to cowl each want. The bottom funds for transportation in Utah this yr is about $2.8 billion. Further transportation-related funds requests accounted for an additional $1.2 billion in one-time cash and $800,000 in ongoing funds.

Utah added half 1,000,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020, a mixture of individuals shifting right here and Utahns having kids. That’s an 18.4% development price, the quickest within the nation.

And as such, Utah lawmakers have just lately been on a transportation spending spree.

In 2021, they handed a $1.23 billion transit package deal that included $264 billion in bonds to double-track parts of the FrontRunner commuter rail. That proposal was pared down from its preliminary $2.26 billion price ticket after Republicans within the Senate balked at borrowing $1.4 billion by means of bonding.

Earlier than the 2022 session, legislative leaders put aside $200 million to rescind the FrontRunner bonds issued, saving the state tens of millions in bond funds. Lawmakers are hoping to unencumber sufficient money to pay for all the transit tasks on this yr’s invoice with out borrowing, however bonds are once more a chance.

If public transit tasks are included within the remaining checklist, the state might have extra management over how that cash is spent. A present proposal — HB322, which nonetheless wants Senate debate — transfers oversight of public transit tasks funded with state cash from the Utah Transit Authority to the Utah Division of Transportation.

White House asks Congress for $6.4 billion for Ukraine crisis


The White Home requested Congress on Friday to approve $6.4 billion in help to deal with the humanitarian and safety disaster in Ukraine after Russia invaded the nation this week, Biden administration and congressional aides mentioned. (Tom Brenner, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON — The White Home requested Congress on Friday to approve $6.4 billion in help to deal with the humanitarian and safety disaster in Ukraine after Russia invaded the nation this week, Biden administration and congressional aides mentioned.

“In a latest dialog with lawmakers, the administration recognized the necessity for extra U.S. humanitarian, safety, and financial help to Ukraine and Central European companions on account of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” an official from the White Home Workplace of Administration and Price range mentioned.

The request included $2.9 billion in safety and humanitarian help and $3.5 billion for the Division of Protection.

Congressional aides mentioned the administration had made the request on Friday at a briefing for employees from congressional management workplaces and related committees, together with the appropriations committees that set spending.

Congress, which is managed by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats, would take into account the $2.9 billion in funding for the State Division and USAID as an emergency invoice, with funding for the Pentagon thought of later, congressional aides mentioned.

The cash would additionally cowl the implementation and enforcement of the sanctions Biden is enacting to punish Russia for its aggression in opposition to Ukraine.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, mentioned he would work intently with the administration to deal with the disaster.

“America authorities wants to supply the required assets to assist our allies and help the harmless individuals caught in the midst of this pointless calamity,” he mentioned in an announcement.

The newly requested funds would increase the $650 million in safety help and $52 million in humanitarian help the US has already dedicated to Ukraine over the previous yr, in addition to the $1 billion sovereign mortgage assure introduced final week.

A Biden administration official mentioned the dialog round funding wants would change because the scenario on the bottom evolves.

Earlier on Friday, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees overseas help, mentioned he would assist $10 billion or extra to deal with the disaster following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Departing from latest celebration divisions, each Biden’s fellow Democrats and opposition Republicans have expressed sturdy assist for sharp will increase in army and humanitarian help for Ukraine, with some calling for passage of an emergency spending invoice as quickly as subsequent week.

Russian missiles pounded Kyiv on Friday, households cowered in shelters and authorities advised residents to arrange Molotov cocktails to defend Ukraine’s capital from an assault that the mayor mentioned had already begun with saboteurs within the metropolis.

Contributing: Andrea Shalal and Kanishka Singh

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Lawmakers add more than $2 billion to Utah’s budget. How do they plan to spend your tax dollars?


Tax cuts, schooling funding and water conservation are prime spending priorities.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The solar units on the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.

Late Friday, legislative leaders added greater than $2 billion in spending to Utah’s finances for the subsequent fiscal 12 months, bringing the general price ticket to $24 billion. The spending spree consists of greater than $500 million in ongoing funding and $1.5 million in one-time spending.

The seven appropriations subcommittees spent the primary three weeks of the 2022 session reviewing budgets and requests for funding which they used to make their spending suggestions. Price range leaders then used these precedence funding lists to make the finances selections launched on Friday evening.

The entire ultimate spending selections made by the Govt Appropriations Committee have been made out of the general public’s view with little or no public dialogue.

It wasn’t simply the general public stored at nighttime on these budgeting selections. Most lawmakers noticed the funding record for the primary time on Friday afternoon. Home and Senate Republicans obtained their first look throughout lunchtime caucus conferences. Democrats obtained their first glimpse shortly earlier than afternoon ground time.

Friday morning Home Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, solely spoke in generalities about finances selections as a result of they weren’t public but.

“We’ve taken a few of the ongoing cash that was a part of our new income estimates, and we’ve set it apart to both put together for some potential troublesome instances financially sooner or later or perhaps a future tax minimize,” he mentioned, concerning whether or not the battle in Ukraine will impression the state finances. “There’s some issues we’re doing to attempt to make actually prudent monetary selections and put together for the unknown.”

Lawmakers plan to spice up per-pupil funding in Utah’s public colleges by about 6%. Earlier than the session, legislative leaders put aside $72 million. Friday’s spending record included one other $124.6 million.

Total, legislative leaders added 9% to the general public schooling finances on Friday evening. The spending consists of $12 million to broaden non-obligatory all-day kindergarten, which is lower than the $22.7 million requested by the appropriations committee for public schooling.

Lawmakers took a extra important improve in schooling funding off the desk earlier this 12 months by dashing by a $193 million revenue tax minimize bundle within the first half of this 12 months’s session. These cuts, which principally favor bigger households and higher-income Utahns, are paid for out of the Training Fund.

Friday’s finances proposal added $168 million in ongoing funds to public schooling, which is lower than the $193 million they put towards tax reduction.

The Social Companies finances consists of $55 million in one-time funding for a deeply reasonably priced housing program. That’s lower than half the $127 million the Social Companies Appropriations Subcommittee prioritized on its spending record. Federal funding from the COVID-19 reduction packages handed by Congress could make up the distinction.

Curiously, the Social Companies funding record consists of $15 million for “housing preservation.” The precedence record from the appropriations committee didn’t have that funding request. Past the imprecise title, there’s no info on the place the appropriation got here from or how will probably be used.

The finances proposal consists of a number of expenditures for water conservation. There’s $200 million for secondary water metering, $30 million for Bear Lake preservation and $40 million to assist protect the Nice Salt Lake.

The Legislature added greater than $2 million to their finances for subsequent 12 months. The Utah Home added $1.29 million to the Home with one other $783,900 for the Senate. There’s little or no element on how the Home funding shall be spent. The finances proposal solely mentions “obligatory staffing” and bettering areas within the Capitol. The Senate funding improve consists of three full-time salaries and $100,000 for bettering the Senate lounge space.

The ultimate finances selections shall be made subsequent week earlier than the session adjourns on Friday at midnight.

Justice Dept. Sues to Block $13 Billion Deal by UnitedHealth Group


WASHINGTON — The Justice Division on Thursday sued to dam a $13 billion acquisition of a well being expertise firm by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, within the newest transfer by the Biden administration to clamp down on company consolidation.

The company argued {that a} deal by UnitedHealth to purchase the well being tech agency Change Healthcare would give UnitedHealth delicate information that it might wield towards its rivals within the insurance coverage enterprise. The swimsuit was filed in U.S. District Court docket for the District of Columbia. New York and Minnesota additionally joined the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Optum, the UnitedHealth subsidiary, stated in a press release that the Justice Division’s “deeply flawed place is predicated on extremely speculative theories that don’t mirror the realities of the well being care system,” and added that the corporate would “defend our case vigorously.” A spokeswoman for Change Healthcare stated it was nonetheless “working towards closing the merger as we adjust to our obligations underneath the merger settlement.”

The deal is the most recent transaction to run into opposition from the Biden administration, which has made countering company consolidation a central a part of its financial agenda. President Biden signed an govt order final yr to spur competitors in numerous industries. He additionally appointed Lina Khan, a outstanding critic of the tech giants, to steer the Federal Commerce Fee and Jonathan Kanter, a lawyer who has represented massive corporations, as chief of antitrust efforts on the Justice Division.

Since then, the F.T.C. has blocked Lockheed Martin from shopping for a maker of missile propulsion techniques and the chip big Nvidia from buying the design agency Arm. Even earlier than Mr. Kanter was confirmed, the Justice Division sued to dam the merger of two main insurance coverage brokers; the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by the writer Penguin Random Home; and a deal that might have married a few of JetBlue’s operations with American Airways’.

“It’s half and parcel of this effort to ensure that markets really are aggressive,” stated William Baer, who beforehand served as the pinnacle of the Justice Division’s antitrust division.

In a press release, Legal professional Common Merrick B. Garland stated the company “is dedicated to difficult anticompetitive mergers, notably these on the intersection of well being care and information.”

Optum stated final yr that it could purchase Change Healthcare, an organization that provides expertise providers to insurers. UnitedHealth is among the largest well being firms within the nation, with $287.6 billion in income in 2021. Along with its well being care info expertise enterprise, its Optum unit owns doctor practices, a big chain of surgical procedure facilities and one of many nation’s largest pharmacy profit managers.

On the heart of the Justice Division’s lawsuit is the information that Change Healthcare gathers when it helps course of insurance coverage claims. The division argued that the deal would allow UnitedHealth to see the principles that its rivals used to course of claims and undercut them. UnitedHealth might additionally crunch information about sufferers at different insurers to realize a aggressive benefit, the company stated.

The lawsuit claims that, in accordance with a UnitedHealth estimate, greater than half of American medical insurance coverage claims “go by way of (or contact)” Change Healthcare’s techniques. It says that UnitedHealth’s former chief govt noticed the tech firm’s information because the “basis” of the reasoning behind the deal.

The lawsuit additionally argued that UnitedHealth might withhold Change Healthcare’s merchandise — which different insurers use — from its rivals or save a few of its new improvements for itself. The Justice Division added that the deal would give UnitedHealth a monopoly over a kind of service that was used to display insurance coverage claims for errors and pace up processing.

The businesses have stated the acquisition will enhance effectivity within the trade. Additionally they explored promoting the a part of Change Healthcare that the Justice Division stated would give UnitedHealth a brand new monopoly.

Lawmakers and regulators have more and more nervous that massive companies might use troves of knowledge to harm their rivals. A congressional committee has investigated whether or not Amazon makes use of information from outdoors retailers who use its platform to develop competing merchandise, for instance. Critics of Fb have additionally argued that the corporate’s having years of consumer information makes it troublesome for an upstart service to problem its dominance.

Since Mr. Kanter joined the antitrust division on the Justice Division, critics have stated he shouldn’t oversee circumstances towards corporations whose rivals he represented whereas in personal follow. In line with a monetary disclosure kind he filed final yr, he as soon as represented Cigna, a significant insurer that competes with UnitedHealth, and the distant well being care firm Teladoc.

Mr. Kanter has not participated within the lawsuit towards UnitedHealth, an individual accustomed to the Justice Division’s case stated.

Reed Abelson contributed reporting.