The start of our second week here on Utah’s Capitol Hill was met with hard work as our appropriations subcommittees continued to meet diligently and discuss the budget. These subcommittees reviewed state departments, audits, and spending, and then brought forward a base budget. The base budget is presented in bill form and is essentially a guideline for spending for the year.
As House Chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, my main focus this week was S.B. 1, the “Higher Education Base Budget” Bill. This bill distributes $ 1,465,863,800 to the universities, ATCs and community colleges throughout Utah. We are proud of our institutions of higher education here in Utah. The universities continue to place a high emphasis on maintaining responsible budgets, and continue to update their programs to ensure that students are earning degrees that can better their lives. This budget also enables our schools to be better equipped to achieve our goal to have 60% of Utahans to have a degree by 2020. While it is still a priority to create a budget with more equitable funding between the universities, we are off to a great start this year. Ultimately, the legislature continues to keep Utah fiscally responsible by balancing the budget every year.
Later in the week the Utah House of Representatives had the privilege of honoring fallen Sgt. Derek Johnson and his family with a citation on the House floor. As legislators, and as Utahans, we are grateful for the sacrifices law enforcement members and their families make every day.
PRADA AND THE PRISON RELOCATION
One of the most pressing issues this session is whether the prison should be relocated, or simply remodeled. PRADA (Prison Relocation and Development Authority) is a committee assigned to discuss whether the prison should be moved, where it should be moved, and how it would be moved. Regardless of which decision is made, it is important to note that any one of the options will be expensive, and hopefully, be a long term solution. On February 5, 2014, the council voted in favor of the prison to be relocated from Draper. This is the second committee to recommend a relocation. If the prison were to be relocated, there are four main options the state could follow in order to accomplish the task.
The four options proposed for relocation:
1. Draper replaced in 2018 with a short term jail capacity increase for the immediate growth needs.
2. Draper replaced in 2018. The jail remains at 23% of total capacity
3. Draper phased out by 2024
4. Draper Phased out by 2020
- All of these options assume that there will be 960 new beds.
- All of these options will plan to house some state inmates in county jails throughout the phase-out process.
Pros for changing location
- A brand new prison is estimated to be more efficient. It would save approximately $20 million each year in operating costs.
- There is a large growth of industry occurring in Draper. If the prison is moved, there can be new businesses that come in its place.
- Potentially 40,000 jobs can be introduced into Draper with the new businesses.
- The potential new industry that would take the prison’s place in Draper could generate $1.8 billion in the economy, and provide potential state and local taxes of $95 million each year.
- The land the Draper Prison is currently on has been valued at being worth $130 million. This can help offset the costs of building a new prison.
- The estimated cost of the Prison ranges from $471 million to $550 million. The net cost, after factoring the $260 million that would be required to update the current prison, and the potential sale of the land, would be about $106 million.
Cons to relocation
- The direct cost of the remodel would be lower, at $260 million.
- Only 30% of the 122 buildings at the Draper prison are past their intended life cycle.
- Those that are currently employed by the Draper Prison would be effected. They may need to move, have a longer commute, or no longer be employed by the prison.
- Moving the prison to a more remote location could prove to be a strain for volunteers that come to assist and help prisoners. If the prison is too far away, it will also be difficult for family and friends to visit prisoners. Both of which, are an important part of the rehabilitation process.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you regarding any questions, comments, or concerns.
Representative Keith Grover
Utah House of Representatives | District 61