Utah lawmakers called for special session over shipping hub

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has called the Legislature into a special session to approve revisions for a planned massive shipping hub in Salt Lake City that has drawn the ire of the capital city’s mayor, he said Monday.

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet to vote on the plan, which Herbert called a “win-win,” Wednesday.

They will also vote on a measure regarding online sales taxes, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing states to force shoppers to pay the taxes. Some major retailers including Amazon and Airbnb have already agreed to add taxes to their sales in Utah, but the state estimates that it could collect an additional $60 million from other companies.

It’s unclear how lawmakers will act on online sales taxes, though they have previously earmarked $55 million of any online sales tax collected in Utah for a tax break for manufacturers.

The new shipping hub proposal will make changes to a plan the Legislature approved earlier this year creating a 20,000-acre (8093.89-hectare) facility to store and transfer goods traveling from seaports on the West Coast and elsewhere onto trucks and railcars headed throughout the country. The plan stirred opposition from local officials who called it a power grab by Republican state officials that will clog their neighborhoods with traffic and blanket them in smog.

Herbert and other state officials had reached their new revisions after negotiations with members of the Salt Lake City Council, they said.

The revisions will reduce the size of the proposed facility in northwest Salt Lake City, protect nearby wetlands, adjust tax provisions and dedicate money to affordable housing.

“We’ve been able to address our consistent concerns in this draft bill to a great extent,” said council chairwoman Erin Mendenhall.

Yet the plan appeared to have been reached without support from Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, a Democrat. She had previously entered into negotiations with Herbert’s office about the facility but failed to reach a deal.

Biskupski’s office will review the new plan and listen to comments from her constituents, spokesman Matthew Rojas said. He called the bill “questionable” and accused lawmakers of rushing through the process without appropriate public input.

Lawmakers said they will have a chance to hear public input on the proposal before voting on it Wednesday.

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