Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has called a special legislative session in response to the continued lapse in federal funding for state programs.
State Senator Lyle Hillyard says three bills will be covered in Wednesday’s session: The first aims to authorize state funds for last week’s reopening of some of Utah’s national parks.
Hillyard said the appropriation process for money the governor sent to the national parks late last week may be contentious.
“A couple of issues that are floating around is, number one: are there other national parks that we need to open? There’s some over in the Vernal area, there’s actually Golden Spike here in Box Elder County—do we want to expand to more than just the eight that have been identified? Secondly, there’s some concern that we ought to do it for more than just the 10 days that the governor’s done because a lot of people who travel from some distance need some time planning,” Hillyard said.
Hillyard does not think funding for additional parks would be economical, since the parks currently covered are those that bring in the most money for the state. He explained that the 1.7 million dollars that the state issued to parks will amount to 10 percent of what will be made back in taxes from the tourism industry.
Edward Redd from the Utah House of Representatives agrees that funding for national parks is important.
“What we find is that rural Utah, with our national parks, we’re kind of dependent on people coming in there and spending money while they’re here,” Redd said.
Other bills to be covered by the session include one that would provide around 400 federal employees, including members of the National Guard, with fringe benefits such as health insurance.
The final bill would approve 12 million dollars in previously issued federal funding to keep the School Lunch Program running though November.