With just hours to go in the 2024 general session of the Utah Legislature on Mar. 1, Gov. Spencer Cox shared his views of the major successes of state lawmakers with reporters.

SALT LAKE CITY – After 45 days and some 560 new laws passed – and still counting – Gov. Spencer Cox praised the 2024 general session of the Utah Legislature for successfully completing a number of very complex initiatives.

Cox took to the podium at the Capitol to deliver that evaluation while the clock was still ticking down to the Legislature’s final gavel, scheduled not later than midnight on Mar. 1.

The governor said that his personal priority in this legislative session was affordable housing, which lawmakers agreeably funded to the tune of $300 million.

That effort only involved a little legislative slight of hand.

Cox had originally requested some $275 million to fund 35,000 new starter homes by 2028. After budget constrains appeared mid-way through the general session, that plan went up in smoke.

Instead, innovative lawmakers turned to the State Treasurer’s Office, which will now make roughly $300 million in public investment funds available for three years to allow bank and credit unions to offer low-interest loans for affordable homes.

“It’s brilliant,” Cox said, while confessing that he’s giddly over that alternative funding scheme.

The Republican majorities the Utah House and Senate ultimately approved a $29.4 billion budget for the Fiscal Year that begins July 1, which was about $100 million less than Cox originally requested.

But that budget still includes significant funding for homelessness initiatives, which were another of Cox’s priorities.

“This past week,” he explained, “we were able to clear several hurdles which will allow us to implement strategic homelessness plans.”

Those plans include a significant increase in shelter beds; creation of a homelessness court, which will hold transients accountable while providing options for treatment and service; and, an end to unsanctioned camping in Salt Lake City and other locations.

Cox also praised lawmakers for their handling of controversial stadium funding bills that emerged late in the general session and were rushed through hearings.

Those bills would help to fund construction of new sports venues, one on the west side of Salt Lake City, contingent on the Larry H. Miller Company and the Miller family landing Major League Baseball, and the other for a reimagining of a venue in downtown Salt Lake City to host the Utah Jazz and a potential National Hockey League franchise owned by Ryan Smith.

For the baseball stadium, a new reinvestment district in the Rose Park neighborhood would raise the state car rental tax by 1.5 percent. To swing the hockey arena, the city of Salt Lake could impose an additional 0.5 percent sales tax.

“I’ve got 20 days to review all 561 bills (that the Legislature had passed so far),” Cox concluded. “I will inevitably end up signing some bills that I don’t love. That’s part of the process.”

After the 2023 general session, Cox set a record by not vetoing a single bill.

“It’s more likely than not,” he observed in the waning hours of the 2024 session, “that there will be some bills vetoed this year.”

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