Sen. Stuart Adams' article states that SB243 will enable “an easy, voluntary and effective way" to improve air quality. But his proposal isn’t truly voluntary and won’t be effective. Adams may have good intentions, but this would create an unaccountable bureaucracy.
The proposal is to collect a dollar per month from household utility bills. Sounds small? It’s estimated to bring in $20 million a year and amounts to a larger rate increase than Questar's last general increase.
The proposal is an opt-out proposal. Adams stated that an opt-in version wouldn't collect enough money. So he has "volunteered" all of us to pay, unless we take the time to contact our utility provider to opt-out.
This would open the door for legislators to add other charges to avoid being accountable for tax increases; they’re unwilling to commit any public funds to attack the air quality problem, except possibly through a hidden tax on our utility bills.
In addition, the money proposed to be collected from utilities will have little oversight. The majority goes to an interlocal entity formed between UTA and the Office of Energy Development. The board of this entity has no air quality expertise, but consists of several representatives with potential conflicts, such as the Petroleum Marketers Association. The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Greg Hughes, is the chair of the UTA board and sits on this interlocal entity’s board.
Nothing prevents this from becoming backdoor funding for UTA, which has a record of lavish wages, unrealistic retirements, excessive bonuses, and conflicts of interest, all while decimating bus service.
Let’s ensure that air quality initiatives will have real impact. SB243 is not the answer.