Senator David Hinkins and State Representative Brad King presented an overview of the most recent legislative session to the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce members during April’s meeting.
King spoke of prison reform in terms of treating prisoners with various addiction and mental illnesses and how the current facility in Draper is not equipped to deal with treatment.
“We spend all of our money on prisons and jails in the state of Utah, 80% of those prisoners are addicted to drugs,” King explained. “We treat almost none of those people and we wonder why they return to prison after being out.”
King said recidivism rates among the prison population would decrease with proper treatment, allowing less money to be spent on prisons long-term. The prison is very old and to upgrade the facility on the present site would cost as much money as starting fresh somewhere else.
He also spoke of the gas tax bill changing to allow cities and counties access to gas tax money, which hasn’t happened since the mid 1980. King touched on education funding and said the way school boards will be elected will be changing. King also explained that $18 million was approved to go toward marketing our state to increase tourism.
Hinkins spoke of his position as co-chair of Natural Resource Appropriations Committee and how that committee was able to settle a case dealing with Navajo trust funds. This will allow the state to be the trustee of those funds rather than the federal government. They have been able to use some of that trust money for scholarships for Native Americans and now the funds can be utilized for building homes as well as improving health and human services in San Juan County. Namely, the funds will finance a project to take running water to Native American homes so they will no longer have to haul water.
Additionally, Hinkins explained that $11 million was appropriated for dam safety to fund 18 projects across the state. Millsite is on the list. Also, an education reform bill was passed that will bring a $20-50 dollar increase per household in property taxes to help equalize school districts.
Hinkins spoke of the gas tax increase and how that money would be used for road maintenance of class 2 roads. He used an example of how greatly the area will need the increased money to maintain roads in Carbon and Emery counties. With the effects of Deer Creek mine and the Carbon Power Plant closing, “truck traffic on our roads coming from Skyline Mine and Sufco Mine to the Huntington Plant will increase anywhere from 300-400 trips per day,” explained Hinkins. The money from the gas tax will also be used for bridge repair and construction.