Going For Broke: UTA Demands Tax Increase, Parties In Europe (UPDATE)

Just off the high of a sweat cloaked bailout from the 2013 Legialature, news came out that UTA wants a 66% increase in it’s share of sales tax. It seems they were unable to properly plan for and budget for their various high profile line (rail etc) expansions. The PR of new goodies is just too tempting, I suppose. Despite the apparently poor planning, UTA execs got large bonuses on your dime:

The Salt Lake Tribune reported this month that top UTA executives split $750,000 in bonuses last year by meeting goals that critics say are too easily met. Even former UTA Chief Executive Officer John Inglish received a $22,700 bonus even though his then-mostly advisory job had him mainly traveling to represent UTA at industry meetings, while receiving other compensation of $364,000 a year…

Better yet, Utah Transit Authority execs and their legislative supporters decided now would be a great time for a European vacation:

The day after the Utah Transit Authority began seeking a 66 percent increase in its share of sales taxes, four top UTA officials — including the same person who asked legislators for that increase — jetted off to Switzerland to look at mountain transportation systems.

They are spending $1,600 each for round-trip airfare and $200 each per night on hotel rooms for five nights, plus food and other incidentals, the UTA acknowledged in response to Tribune inquiries. They also took six legislators and a lobbyist with them — but UTA said they are paying their own way.

As for the “paying their own way” line, I can’t help wonder if the legislators (Representatives Greg Hughes, Brad Dee, Don Ipson, Brad Last and Johnny Anderson and Senator Evan Vickers) used campaign funds to ‘pay their own way’. Such funds are often provided by lobbyist donors such as Jeff Hartley, who is UTA’s lobbyist…and also on the trip.

Representative Janice Fisher summed it up well:

“I question their judgment on spending this kind of money on top of the firestorm that’s going on concerning bonuses and the cutting of services and the debt they are in…”

Just wait ’till she hears about how much UTA’s blowing on travel:

International travel has been among controversies UTA has faced recently. Last year, the Tribune reported that UTA had spent $600,000 in a year and half on travel. For example, former CEO John Inglish had traveled to Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Spain (twice), Switzerland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and 17 U.S. cities. He averaged 1.6 trips a month.

Hughes traveled for UTA to Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, San Antonio, Sacramento, Portland (three times) and Washington, D.C.

Not to worry though, we’re being so tough on them that UTA felt it necessary to petition their board to lower targets for bonuses.

UPDATE: Freshly back from their trip, UTA reps and legislators proudly declare blowing tax money and lobbyist funds on the junket was totally worth it. Note that this time the reporter did mention that ‘pay their own way’ really means lobbyists paid their way through legislators’ campaign funds:

…Accompanying them were six legislators — including Hughes, who is also the House Republican whip — who said they paid their own way, or used a mix of personal and campaign funds.

In more local news, Bountiful feels icky about it but decided to drop $15,000 to UTA anyway.  At least that will pay for one Swiss trip costs.


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