October 24, 2005 For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrew Stephenson 972-8814 or 891-1385(cell)
Utah cities and counties spending millions on lobbyists!
Utah’s largest cities and counties are paying over $1 million annually to contract lobbyists which state agencies are prohibited by law from hiring, according to a recent report by the Utah Taxpayers Association. Association Research Analyst Andrew Stephenson said, “ Utah’s 30 largest cities and 5 Wasatch Front area counties already pay more than $1million dollars a year to the League of Cities and Towns and Utah Association of Counties to lobby the state legislature and congress. We don’t see the need for spending an additional $1 million on contract lobbyists.”
The Utah Taxpayers Association recently conducted a survey of the state’s 30 largest cities and 5 major counties along the Wasatch Front through GRAMA (Government Records Access Management Act) requests. The results may surprise taxpayers about where their money is going. Of the 30 cities surveyed, nearly half (14) had contracts in place with lobbyists and paid over $1 million dollars in state and federal lobbyist expenses in 2005. This doesn’t include the dues paid to the League of Cities and Towns which has several highly qualified effective lobbyists on staff, in addition to providing other services to cities.
The five counties surveyed paid over $300,000 in lobbyist expenses in 2005, not including dues paid to the Utah Association of Counties. UAC also has a number of experienced lobbyists working at the Utah Legislature on behalf of Utah’s 29 counties.
In 2005, 11 of the 35 surveyed Cities and Counties spent $624,000 on contracts to lobby the state legislature. This was a 22% increase from 2004, when 7 of the 35 spent $512,960. Sandy City and Salt Lake County are the biggest offenders, spending $170,000 and$160,000 respectively in 2005.
State Senator Scott Jenkins, former Mayor of Plain City, is sponsoring legislation to prohibit local governments from hiring contract lobbyists. State agencies are already prohibited from hiring contract lobbyists to represent them at the state legislature. Senator Jenkins says his legislation will be similar.
“As a former mayor and now as a legislator it is clear to me that mayors, council members, and commissioners of cities and counties have the immediate ear of the legislature on any issue they want to bring up,” Senator Jenkins said. “Legislators meet with city and county elected officials before, during, and after each legislative session. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they should be spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer’s money on state lobbyists.” [Sen. Jenkins (801)731-5120]
“The Utah Taxpayers Association agrees with Senator Jenkins,” said Andrew Stephenson. “City and county mayors, council members, commissioners and other elected representatives are elected to do just that, represent their constituents, not spend thousands on lobbyists to do the job they were elected to perform. From our experience, when the Utah Taxpayers Association opposes cities and counties on an issue at the legislature, it’s the mayors and commissioners who have the real clout with legislators. Often, legislators pick up the gauntlet for their cities and become the most ardent lobbyists with their colleagues.”
Utah County Commissioner Steve White, whose county is the 2 nd largest in the state but does not hire lobbyists, agreed. “Representing Utah County before the State Legislature is part of what a full-time county commissioner is elected to do.”
[Commissioner Steve White (801) 851-8136].
A complete chart showing lobbying expenditures for surveyed cities and counties is found on the next page.