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Republicans Defend $100 Million In Added Prison Funding

Utah Republicans are defending a $100 million bond package that was approved this week without a public hearing. The money is designated for a future state prison west of Salt Lake City.

House Bill 460 was passed Monday by the state House of Representatives without a committee hearing.

Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis said that legislative Republicans avoided a public hearing in order to downplay the poor planning of the prison.

“They forgot roads and sewers. Those are not the kinds of things you would normally forget, especially not for $100 million dollars. They haven’t dug one hole out there,” Dabakis said. “So, this means they’re planning and their estimates were off by about 20 percent to begin with, which seems to me to explain why they don’t want to have a hearing on it because it would be very embarrassing.”

SB 460 passed the state Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 23 to four.

Logan Republican Sen. Lyle Hillyard said that the initial cost estimate for the prison was provisional and that lawmakers knew for several years that more public bonds would be needed to finish the project.

“When we first funded the prison, we were given a figure of $550 million. We’ve funded $80 million of it in ash to start out with to get it going and then we authorized bonds to take care of the rest. We’ve never really had anyone sit down and go through the actual cost,” Hillyard said. “So, we’ve known for several years that the bond is going to have to be increased by $100 million to actually do all the costs of the prison as we really started getting a paper drafting out exactly what it’d be.”  

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert told reporters that the new prison was always going to cost $650 million, $100 million more than the original estimate.