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Report from the Legislature

By K.L. MCIFF Utah State Representative

We are at the end of the second full week of the legislative session. The breadth of topics raised in the several hundred bills covers almost every area of human activity. I again focus on two that are important to the citizens in rural Utah.

Water in the West

The rural caucus was briefed on the proposal of Las Vegas to quench its insatiable thirst by piping water from Snake Valley, which straddles the Utah-Nevada border. It raises important issues for the future of Utah and the intermountain west. While we have long been aware that the availability of water (or the lack thereof) would be a major factor, it is becoming increasingly clear that it will drive the growth and economic development decisions of the future.
It also appears that the water world is shrinking and that what happens in Snake Valley may have a carryover impact in both the Great Basin and the Colorado River drainage. Two things are clear: (1) Aquifers pay no attention to county or state lines, and (2) when you have consumed the water in your canteen, you naturally look anyplace you can to find a drink.
In an effort to determine the potential impact on Utah from the proposed Nevada project, the Utah Geological Survey seeks a legislative appropriation of $2 million to sink a series of small but deep wells (on the Utah side) and install monitory equipment capable of measuring impact on natural springs, underground water levels and pressure. I consider it money well spent. Unless we have actual scientific data, our protestations may fall on deaf ears.

Tax Relief

There is wide divergence of views as to what level of tax relief would be appropriate and what taxes should be reduced. Some are pushing for a decision “before the evidence is in.” It will be mid-February before we have updated income information and an adequate needs assessment can be completed. I feel a little like the farmer who wants to see what the “second crop” looks like and whether the tractor still runs before deciding whether to buy a new pickup. When the time comes, we will again be debating removal of sales tax from food, lowering the new “flat-tax” rate, and whether to further reduce the standard rate which allows for deductions. I am interested in what you think. You can reach me at kaymciff@utah.gov.

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