Mitt Romney celebrates as infrastructure bill advances, explains some of the money Utah could get

Roads, water systems and more could get a boost as Senate moves to debate the $550 billion measure.

(J. Scott Applewhite | AP) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and other Senate Republicans negotiating a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with Democrats, announce they have reached agreement on the major outstanding issues and are ready to vote to take up the bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Utah would see a surge of cash for roads, water systems, broadband expansion and more under an infrastructure bill negotiated by Sen. Mitt Romney and a bipartisan group.

The Senate voted to take up the $550 billion bill Wednesday, with Romney and 16 other Republicans joining the Democrats to start the debate, setting it on a course for a final vote.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, voted against starting debate, arguing that this is “irresponsible, ineffective spending.”

Back in June, Romney and a group of senators declared they had a deal, but that was only on an outline. Since then, they have labored to turn it into an actual bill, hundreds of pages long, a process that sparked some renegotiation that had the process teetering on collapse more than once.

The negotiators have reached a consensus, and leaders of both parties are ready to move forward.

“This is good legislation with good policy,” Romney, R-Utah, said. “But I think it’s also important for the country to see that Washington can work. Republicans and Democrats can work together and come up with something that’s bipartisan.”

The bill would be paid for by cobbling together unused coronavirus aid, selling off radio spectrum, adding requirements to cryptocurrencies, and counting future economic expansion spurred by this new spending.

It includes no tax increases.

Utah would get $3 billion for roads, relying on existing funding formulas. It would get up to $219 million for water projects, and that doesn’t count an additional $50 million for the Central Utah Project, a decades-long effort to funnel Colorado River water to the Wasatch Front.

The legislation also provides the Navajo Nation, which includes a portion of southeastern Utah, with roughly $200 million to extend running water to more homes.

The state could apply for grants for new bridges, transit, broadband expansion and more.

This bipartisan bill is separate from a much larger spending package that Democrats are trying to push through on their own. That bill, coming in at $3.5 trillion, would provide child care, free community college and major climate change programs.

Romney warned if this bipartisan bill failed, Democrats would try to pass an infrastructure bill on their own as well.

“It will be a bank-breaking extravaganza, just like the $3.5 trillion plan. So I hope we get this done,” he said. “It will save a lot of money.”

Romney also successfully tucked two proposals he is sponsoring into the $550 billion bill. One creates a wildfire commission that would develop a national policy and direct where to locate firefighting resources, including planes, so they can be easily deployed. The second measure would reduce congestion by modernizing traffic signals, a process that is largely done in Utah’s metro areas.

If the Senate eventually passes this bill, it would then go to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she won’t bring it up for a vote until the Senate also passes the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package.

Correction: 7 p.m., July 28 • An earlier version of this story included the incorrect amount of road funding Utah would receive.